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Oct. 3rd, 2009

flora: Stylized Indian national flag (india)
We now have Indian clothing.  We went shopping in our town, Visnagar. We're both much more comfortable in Indian dress.

We first went to a salwar kameez shop. The salwar kameez is a very common outfit worn by South Asian women. It has three parts. The salwar is a loose-fitting gathered pants. The kameez is a short tunic that has a solid shirt-like body to the waist, then the panels divide at the hips to allow free movement. It's normally topped with a dupatta, a long scarf draped around the neck. Salwar Kameez outfits are more common than saris for northern Indian everyday wear, but they're common throughout India and Pakistan. The female faculty at the engineering school wear salwar kameezes, and so do the female students when they're not in jeans and T-shirts. I frequently see girls in salwar kameez school uniforms too.

Indian women love decoration and bling; my tastes are simpler. The salwar kameezes in the shop were all super-fancy by American standards. They were all spangled with sequins and/or heavily embroidered. I asked repeatedly and finally they found a few that weren't too gaudy for my tastes. One is turquoise with embroidered fabric. Another is a light peach-pink with white embroidery all over ("chikan work"). A third is a simple weave, possibly handloom. It has a dark pink over blue, embroidered with gold and blue accents of stylized flowers.

The salwar kameez tailor took my measurements. The end result was disappointing. I bought mine made-to-order instead of ready-made. They were cut too small in the bust, especially after they were washed once and shrank in the hospital laundry's heat. (Laundry here is piled together in a tub and boiled, then hung on a clothesline.) Chandrika and I found another tailor a week later and we got them altered. I wanted some saris too, but it was getting late and Michael also wanted some Indian attire.

Michael first tried a dhoti. My sweetie sweats, and he's had a lot of trouble with restless legs here. He's been literally itching to get out of his standard khaki pants, which are much too hot for him in this heat. He first wanted to try the dhoti, the traditional, wrapped white loincloth/toga-like garment Gandhi made famous. Nowadays in North Gujarat, dhotis are mainly worn by retirement-age people; the younger generation wears jeans or trousers. The tailor, who was our age, called in an expert who was walking down the street in a dhoti. He tried to teach Michael how to wrap it. Turns out it's a complicated wrap, going between the legs. Michael said later the shape made him feel like he was wearing a big diaper. So the dhoti wasn't good.

Michael had much better luck with a lungi. Lungis are long sarongs, like a long, plain wraparound skirt. Unlike a skirt, they're straight tubes of fabric, not shaped. Lungis are extremely common in south India. Despite their non-bifurcated shape, they're a manly garment (much more masculine than a Scottish kilt). They're often just tied, but the faculty member with us thought adding a drawstring would be a good idea--especially for a novice at lungi-tying. In the professor's words, it would help avoid a "wardrobe malfunction." My modest sweetie quickly agreed. He ordered several kurta lungi and kurta pajama sets. Kurtas are a tunic like an extended button-down shirt; they can reach to the knees, or lower for some more traditional styles. Pajamas have more fabric than pants, but they still give his legs the ventilation and "breathing room" he needs for comfort. He still will wear his khaki pants/trousers for teaching, but like me, he prefers to wear Indian clothing.

Now we're wearing Indian clothes every day. It's so much more comfortable and suitable to the hot climate here. I might pack away my Western clothes until we go back.

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