Cleaning out a wardrobe is never impassive, mundane activity. Rather, it is an emotional exercise. As I stare at the bureau which I share with my children, the sum total of my life stares back at me. Every piece of clothing is a memoir, a souvenir of the past, a trigger for memories to flood my heart. One, two, three, as I toss and sift the old from new, fresh from faded, the needed and the not-so-needed, I hear an inner call to simultaneously discard those turns and dimensions of my life that no longer “fit my current form”.
Colorful, chaotic, comfortable, well used, well loved, frayed in the edge, patchy in places, fading, gaudy, smooth, sober, silken, lacy and mostly bright, is how I can describe the contents of the wardrobe. But hey presto! The description matches my life too!
As I sit down to the task of folding and arranging three huge piles of clothes- my son’s, my daughter’s and my own, I feel I am being lead into a introspection of sorts on where I am headed and what my children are upto in their lives. Nine out of ten of my son’s pants are tracks and ten out of ten tops are smeared with cricket stains. One entire inner door of the wardrobe is streaked with personal adulatory messages to Sachin and Dhoni. To my left is Gautam Gambhir “Going great guns” and above him is Muthiah Muralidharan “in top gear.” What the hell? Is the kid studying at all? Each and every good dress has been whittled down to look like “cricket wear”. I inspect the plump pockets of few pants. Wrist bands, suntan cream and even a blur picture of Gilchrist emerge. I remember my son telling me, “Please, please improve. How can I take you seriously when you can’t tell a Shane Warne from a Mathew Hayden?” I leave a note for my son on the cupboard, “Your shelf- askew and confusing- like Malinga’s bowling action. I want to see a Kumble.”
My daughter’s pile is less intimidating. It is filled with shiny clothes, bunnies and teddies. She loves gaudy colors, frills and flowers. She loves to dress up and even puts glitter on her cheeks. Let her! I did not have the luxury to exercise or cultivate my feminity. In my days I had to be a tomboy to be taken seriously. I had to fight to get permission to wear pants, which again I grabbed from my brothers’ wardrobe. I meddled with my long hair, cross dressed in my brother’s clothes, learned to ride a bike, and adamantly shunned all things feminine like bindis, bangles, bands etc.- all this to be heard and not merely “noticed”. My daughter’s world is different. She can dwell and indulge her girlishness and yet avail all rights open to her brother and vice versa. She can even be the one to wear the pants at home.
By the time I attack my small pile of clothes, mostly consisting of jeans, sober color short kurtas and bandanas, I tell myself I should revisit my feminine aspect and try out bright colors and experiment with laces, yokes and trimmings and not just reach for khakis and browns that make me look like a gas delivery boy. There is not one negligee, one lacy top, silken dress or party wear. Everything is sober, low-cost and no-nonsense. I feel stumped here. Clothes have always been touted as our second skin, a physical reflection of our self identity, an “attitude wear”. Pablo Neruda writes in his Ode to Clothes, “Every morning you wait, /to fill yourself with/my vanity, my love, /my hope, my body.” If clothes are indeed “us”, then why are my clothes plain, inexpensive and practical when I am not any of those?