As she entered the closet, the sea green, net saree adorned in 3D flowers yawned, hung on a wooden hanger with her companion, the blouse, smelling of sweat and Chanel perfume combined.
“Oh! Such a tiring night. These Indian parties are backbreaking. Naina felt so exhausted holding me around. Phew! It is 11:00pm,” remarked the saree, disturbing the silent slumber of the closet. She carried an air of immutable superiority, stemming from her roots and did not miss an opportunity to assert it over to the ones she called ‘outsiders’.
“And we have so much competition, I felt backseat with such long sleeves. They were going gaga over you though Sia.” The blouse let out a big groan that woke up most of the other dresses in the wide horizontal closet.
“Oh, ask me. I could see the way they are playing with you. These women, they are cutting and stitching you in all possible ways and now I have been put on a mission too. I overheard, a popular Indian actress… ummm… Shilpa Shetty is changing the way I look…and Naina, you know, loves experimenting. It’s good though. Makeovers are important to remain in limelight. By the way, I like the nick name you have given me – Sia, so ‘bharatiya’ just like our goddess Sitaji.” The saree added with a haughty expression glancing over dana jaal embroidery.
“How was the party guys?” The block print, pink palazzo pants and the white Jaipuri Kurti asked in an animated voice.
“It was nice. Much better than the last time when she stepped on the pleats and ruined my magenta chiffon friend’s stone work at the bottom. She handled me better though. I have heard she is tired of wearing me. I tell you, women and their taste for clothes are so flimsy.”
“That’s okay. They may play around with us, give us fancy makeovers but we define them and their beauty. We are the quintessential ‘Indian’ and she adores us…in whichever form. That makes me happy.” Chirped the palazzo pinching her mate, the white kurti.
In the other corner, the western outfits huddled together exchanging supercilious expressions. The low waist, sky blue, ripped jeans, nicknamed Veronica by her gang, was never less than arrogant. She had been brought up with a belief that she was superior to everyone else by virtue of her birth, in the western world. The constant sneer on her face whenever her wearer, Naina, picked her up made her the ugliest dress in the closet. She had few friends- the beige skort( skirt+ short), the LBD(Little Black Dress)and the halter neck, noodle strap tees and tops. Indian dresses were her biggest competitors and she left no stone unturned to pooh pooh their “Indian-ness’ and lampoon at their length, weight and pompousness at every opportunity stolen.
“Indians? Huh! I tell you. Pretentious.” Veronica detested the pretense the Indian dresses seemed to carry with such elan.
“You are right. The grapes you can’t reach will always be sour. We are the western dresses and Naina loves us, lives by us for we define her much better.” Added her friends.
“Really? And just how do you do that?” The age old pride of the saree resurrected with a vengeance.
“Let’s not engage in the same old argument. Naina is most comfortable wearing us and you do not need any proof. Just yesterday she went hiking with the family and what did she wear? Shorts and tee.”
The halter neck, olive green tee smiled at the ripped jeans in a grateful way for proclaiming her versatility.
“And today she wore me. Wow! That rhymes. I am so cool,” Sia gave a little shake to her elaborate pallu.
“You are the ‘sangeet’ and ‘haldi’ type, remembered only when such occasions come up. Rest you are forgotten. We are the talk of the town, her everyday comfort and the dazzle of uptown parties. Not the ‘sagai’ ceremonies and the big fat Indian weddings with butter chicken and malai kofta that you all are used to.” Veronica held on to the rose pink gown who had just become part of their closet a week back.
“Naina danced like a princess that day in the ballroom party she attended,” said the gown lost in the memories of the party.
The sea-green saree held on to the palazzo, fuming with anger.
“Yes! We are the shaadi type, ethnic, ethereal and graceful. You have forgotten my friend 'lehenga’ and mind you –she is the most precious dress for Naina in her entire lifetime – her wedding lehenga.” The commotion inside the closet had now turned into a noisy argument.
“Did someone take my name? Is it already Karwachauth?” the lehenga called from under the suitcase, covered in maroon velvet cloth with naphthalene balls strewn around.
“Ha! Ha ha, and what after that? She forgets it until some Karwachauth. Post the first karwachauth, Madam lehenga is just memories…like her non-existent sex life after eight years of marriage. My friends and I add spark in her life. I have seen how Shubham, her husband looks at her when she wears my friend LBD,” Veronica blurted the reality, touching her short, black, off shoulder friend.
“Oh, c’mon, those two hours of her life mean the world to her. We are precious to her and you are flimsy. And don’t forget, because of you and your skimpy mates, our girls and women are in trouble. Haven’t you heard it enough from the society and its people all around? Also, we are our Prime Minister’s ‘make in India’, we are ‘Made in India’. Sia replied condescendingly as if the 2019 elections depended on her.
“Haha. Hyporcrisy is thy name. You have reduced the blouse to a brassiere, going as thin and low as possible and look who is talking? A women’s character is not wrapped in the nine yards. Her safety, is in minds of the men who judge and try to take advantage. What was the 8-month-old baby girl wearing when she was raped in Delhi? What was the 8-year-old Kathua girl wearing when she was murdered and the country played politics? To add, I am more globalized than you are.”
“Let’s not get into politics. Its a dirty games anyways.”
“Why not? People have dragged me into politics, religion and morality…I am the victim and so is my wearer.”
“Whatever you say, you cannot question that we define India’s culture, rich heritage, traditions and conventions and of course the values. I mean, have you ever seen a woman wearing a LBD on her wedding day? You should see the lehenga which Naina wore for her wedding. It glittered like ‘chaand-sitaare’”.
“Big deal. Very soon we will be part of her wedding trousseau too.”
“Only with a leap of faith my dear. Don’t harbour such big ambitions. We are Indians. You cater to just a segment of the population. The rest of India depends on me and my friends.”
“No complains. I like petite and fit bodies. You see, I am not for everybody anyways neither do I intend to be,” remarked the denim with careless countenance.
“Did someone call me?” The lehenga shouted from inside. Her year-long slumber had been disturbed by the commotion in the closet as she tried to comprehend the mutiny.
“No! No. You take rest. We are here... we are just showing these westerners their true place.”
“And you continue resting,” laughed Veronica, LBD and the skort in unison. “Hey Sia, have you heard about ‘empowerment’? We are her empowered new self and…”
Before low-rise Veronica could upraise her status that Sia retorted with vehemence, “She was always empowered in her Indian dresses…it’s the way you look. Empowerment is not in what you wear.”
“Whoa! That was intellectual. I like that. I thought you had a mind as thick as nine yards.”
“Don’t underestimate the power of my nine yards. I hide all those tires around her hips and make our women look appealing.”
“Gosh! This looks never-ending. Okay, so let make a deal." Veronica arrogantly tried to assert. “Tomorrow is her 9th wedding anniversary. Yay! Naina and Shubham would be making some plans. No wonder they have sent the kids to granny’s house. Let’s see who wins this choicest occasion and post that, there would be no argument.”
“Wow! You surely have some brains. Sure.” nodded Sia, looking at her friends.
Gloating on her brilliant idea, Veronica raised her thumb, “Deal?”
“Deal. Of course.” Sia reciprocated the gesture musing, “This is an assured win, indubitable. Indian women may soar to the skies, but their feet are trammeled by the glorious Indian-ness.”
The nine feet wide glass closet was experiencing a battle oblivious to the gang, not a big one though, to their extreme left side, smelling of cigarette and Bulgari Aqua. They huddled, sneering at the conversation that had just blown their minds. “Women and their life goals. Hahaha!” scoffed the men’s clothes federation.
Later that night, a stormy silence prevailed inside the closet. The dresses waited anxiously for the next day. Delhi’s temperature in the month of May soared to 41 C and the Sia felt nervous. “Heat is our enemy you know,” she whispered to the palazzo. “I know, but they would be planning a romantic evening in an AC restaurant or so. Shubham likes Naina in Indian attire. Don’t worry.”
“Straighten yourself and look your best. Today is her day and you can totally seduce Shubham if you don’t keep falling down every time. So, hold up those big breasts.” Veonica instructed the LBD.
“Sure. Don’t worry.”
And the night slipped by…
The next morning went by listening to the usual hustle and bustle of a couple’s life.
As the clock struck 7 pm and the sun decided to play gentle, they heard Naina enter the bedroom. In a jiffy she opened the closet. The dresses got a glimpse of the beautifully decorated lights, petals strewn over the satin bedsheet and Naina’s freshly waxed skin. Pushing all the hangers aside, Naina moved in further and grabbed a small, delicate bag, muttering to herself, ‘Aah, finally. Shubham would love this.”
The Dream Angels lace babydoll, rose pink lingerie from Victoria's Secret, smiled haughtily as she left the closet clutched in Naina’s hands, mumbling “Huh! LOSERS. I reveal what you conceal and I win the deal.”
The glass door creaked as Naina slid it in a hurry. Amidst the silence and the darkness, the Indian and the western dresses let out a snicker,
“Hahaha…only to be thrown away in a pile moments later. What a waste of life.”