Either it’s my startling whiteness or it’s the fact I’m in ‘Indian dress’.
Meaning of course, that I’m wearing a salvar chemise also known as a Punjabi suit. That’s a long shirt and baggy cotton trousers, with a long scarf.
Not only are these lovely items immensely practical in the heat and extremely comfortable, but as you tend to buy them in a set with a long scarf, you can’t help but look coordinated. And that, to my scruffy nature, is always a winner.
Indian ladies are always extremely ‘done’ and generally very glamorous – makeup, sparkly shoes, matching colour coordinated jewellery, all this as every day wear, even on the beach. I tend to look like I just staggered out the house on laundry day… Even with the best will in the world, I tend to exemplify the words ‘could do with ironing’.
For instance, when I was sat on Hawah Beach the other week, watching a small child being forcibly introduced to the water by his father. The child was having none of it by the way, and was balling his eyes out – the father was much bemused by this. His daughter who might have been all of three, evidently loved the water and was being forcibly restrained from rushing straight in and swimming into the wide deep distance. But his youngest hated the water, hated the sand, and wasn’t too keen on being away from his mother.
Tears, terror and family outings – it’s the same the world over.
But I digress, Indian ladies are very stylish and very coordinated and are always thrilled when I make the effort to dress in the local style as well. Really genuinely pleased, in a way I can’t imagine in other countries. In the UK for instance, if we had a national dress, I think we’d probably be a bit resentful about other people ‘coming here and wearing out clothes’. Not so in polite India.
So staring is often very positive, just having a good old look at someone different. Not in any way aggressive, just looking. It can take a bit of getting used to – but once you realise, that if you catch someone staring and you simply smile back at them, odds are you’ll get a huge beaming, slightly shy smile in return… well it becomes almost charming.
It is still a bit unnerving to walk past an auto rickshaw stand and have thirty or forty small dark men stop talking and turn as one as you walk past.
Then there’s no smiling. Then it feels like you’re simply a giant white freak.
And then, at that moment, I thank God I’m not blonde.
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