New clothes

I remember a time when new clothes were bought three times a year: in the summer holidays, for Deepavali and on birthdays.

Readymade was unheard of then. My mother used to make some of our clothes, and some – including plain white poplin bloomers, no fancy stuff – were made by the tailor who lived near my grandparents’ home in Madras. We would come there from Bombay in the summer holidays, and the new clothes added to the heady excitement of meeting uncles, aunts, cousins, Chakravarti the cook, beloved of us all, the grandparents, great grandparents and cows, hearing stories from the elders, playing in the large garden, climbing trees, plucking mangoes, community bathing in our underwear in ice cold water drawn from the well… I don’t know if our children had it quite so good. For one thing, there was no large band of cousins. For another, they were more supervised. Not as closely as kids are these days, but some. We were so wild, it was a miracle we all survived. My brother drove a car into a lamp post when he was seven. The whole lot of us would literally shock ourselves on a live wire in the grandparents’ garage. We ran along the streets of Bombay chasing kites. We all got regularly bitten by cats, dogs and squirrels. I don’t think our kids had these opportunities to kill themselves – or maybe they’re just not telling.

To get back to the new clothes: I remember especially the ‘twinkle nylon’ frocks that my mother made for my sister and me. A shiny burnt orange colour, they must have been perfectly hideous, but to us they were a cherished dream come true.

These days there’s no sense of occasion to buying clothes. We just buy them when we want or need them. What reminded me of the way it used to be is this: the trees all around have been putting off their old clothes, as they do regularly in February-March, and donning new ones. What a glorious celebration! And, when you think about it, what an amazing feat to pull off! Shedding a truckload of leaves and pulling chlorophyll out of thin air to create a whole new beautiful covering – all in the space of a few weeks.

Each one could be a fashion plate, making its own statement. Here are some of them.

Bare and sunkissed. (And no, that’s not a ghost, it’s three sackfuls of dry leaves awaiting distribution.)
Demure in sprig muslin
Flamboyant
Chintzy cottage style
Crisp and sporty

10 responses to “New clothes

  1. Love love love this post! So many similar memories right from Bombay to the holiday fun and chaos. And I also loved your captions – sprig muslin, chintz 😀
    I have been noticing the same with the almond trees on the ground behind. One tree has shed almost all its large red leaves and a number of tiny tender green leaves are pushing their way out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you enjoyed it, Jaya – life pre liberalisation was simpler and nicer, no? Almost like being a tree. Yes, almond trees are stunning in both their old clothes and the new. Mine are a bit confused like all of us in this weird climate – they’ve got on both sets!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your post has started off such a chain of memories! I’m jumping from one memory to another, from freedom to trees to clothes to relatives to a life I really miss.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I too miss many things from those days, primarily the simplicity. But I’m so much more comfortable in my own skin now than I have been since age 10 or so. So no repinings. I just wish humankind would move forward into a kinder, lower consumption, simpler lifestyle.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So much can relate with your post. Those were such simple days where we enjoyed festival food without worrying about calories calculations, ran and played so much that fat burnt same day😄, new clothes were twice a year for deepawali and birthday. Till my graduation,my mom used to stitch for us. Parents were not scared to send us to school by walking on our own.
    Thank you very much for bringing back those wonderful memories.

    Liked by 1 person

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