Vivek goes shopping 1

I am known for my dress sense…I mean the lack of it.  At the age of 27 I did the biggest cloth shopping of my life with my best friend

I just purchased cloths worth 11 K, which is more than all that I’ve bought in the last decade put together. Needless to say, that’s an experience worth recording for me. Having ‘me’ purchase cloths – that too so many was an experience for the shopkeepers too, that wont come as a surprise to those know me.

I was accompanied by one of my finest friends – an inveterate shopper, an “MBA Type” and a truly heavyweight person weighing in three-digits. We started by settling the issue of where to go. I had set my eyes on a brand called ‘Derby’ that carries an attractive caption: ‘expanding pants for an expanding waistline’. My figure conscious friend (his, mine and anyone figurine) dismissed the idea as nonsense… I asked him if he was considering any brand that is considered a ‘turn-on’ (at least as the ads claim them to be). He told me that no matter what I do, if a young woman were to turn around to look at me, it would be purely due to distraction and not attraction. No, turn-ons won’t help. Given that he was purchasing cloths for me, he chose the brand without reference to style or fashion – We settled on Westside (in India most known brands are franchised making them costlier. Westside is manufactured by Tata and they own the brand making it cheaper, I was told).

So my smart MBA friend took me to Westside for a shopping spree. Being a gender sensitive person, I quickly walked to the women’s section to look for some pants for myself. My friend took the view that they wont fit me. After a brief argument he told me that he was pleased with my gender sensitivity, but the pants came in different sizes and shapes. I gave in knowing that he was better versed with dresses.

It took a long time for Westside employees to understand that I was the customer. Despite my vehement protestations they kept showing us pants twice my waist size, which I suppose would be trifle uncomfortable to wear. My marketing savvy friend had to explain that I am in the process of makeover, which explained the shopping spree and my modest dress (chappal, an old shirt and older trousers). Convinced by the merit of the makeover idea, the guy who was showing us around started working on mission mode.

We started with pants. He asked me if I want formals, informal, casual or party wear. I asked him to give me the most comfortable pairs. I picked up a blue thing and told him that I like those trousers. He told me that it was ‘Jeans’ and not ‘trousers’. I explained to him that Chambers dictionary defined trousers as anything worn waist and below where each leg is covered by separate parts. I basked with pride that finally I’ve something to tell them about dresses; my friend and the salesperson exchanged knowing glances.

The salesperson went on to tell me that there were different types of jeans and trousers: comfort fits, flat fronts, activity style, jumbos, regular, etc. etc. – he managed to sell some of each. I thought that I am now in grips with the jingo of cloth stores when I realized that I’ve no clue of which pant is what. But I shall learn in due course.

Once he had sold all those trousers his faith (in me or in him?) had increased substantially. He went on with further vigour. With much excitement he showed me hundreds of shirts of all colours of the rainbow – one by one. I was by now tired of single colour shirts. He told me that they moved like hot cakes, and I disapproved it. I pitied his poor taste and he mine. I was consistently unimpressed with things that were moving like ‘hot cakes’. I once rejected with certainty what he considered a perfect piece for me; he looked at me with incredulity, but then after examining me once (my chappals in particular) he looked satisfied. He told me that I’d look chic with those cloths, but I told him that I have a need to immunize myself from the ill-effects of charming looks, if any. He promised me that his cloths put me in no danger of looking charming, and our discussion went on…

Like a man who knows what he wants I told him that I wanted shirts that are sober, bright and creative. He immediately showed me some plain shirts in orange: orange was supposed to be bright and creative and plainness sober. I asked him “what about some patterns?” with a hope that he would finally understand me – and lo, he did. He took me to the section with striped shirts. I looked around with some boredom and spotted the ‘ethnic section’ par chance. I examined some batic shirts with interest. He asked me which company I worked for and I told him that I am a student. Looking at me with express dissatisfaction he said, “Still studying!”. But then he got back into business. He and my friend at last found a way to make me surrender. They started an elaborate discussion of ‘what goes with what’ and convinced me that their choice of shirts was the only one that goes well with ‘my choice’ of trousers. Unable to imagine what they looked liked together I finally surrendered and let them pick what they felt like.

Once they sensed a semblance of docility on my part my friend and the salesman went on a blitzkrieg. Before I realized what was happening they had chosen a bundle of cloths and billed them. The salesman glowed with satisfaction. He told me that he never felt pecuniary and missionary satisfaction at the same time as he did today. As we walked back with several bags of cloths my friend gave me an elaborate lecture on what to wear with what, partly to keep me silent. I am trying my best to digest this information and all else that I picked at Westside. Hopefully, one day I shall take someone to purchase cloths!

In any case my friend, don’t be surprised at all if you meet a superfashionable me next time around. This blog is just to forewarn you that I am in the process of a grand makeover!

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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