Nothing to Wear

Hindustan Times | Dec 1, 1999

Every time a woman has to go out, she stares mournfully at her open wardrobe, usually fully stacked, and a primordial cry emanates from her lips: “I have nothing to wear”. Usually a man has no objection to his wife purchasing new clothes — except that her in-satiable need for them bears no logical relation to the large wardrobe and several suitcases full of seldom-worn clothes in perfectly good condition already in her possession.

Saris are most Indian women’s magnificent obsession. “I’ve got to have a new chiffon sari”, a woman will say, a note of desperation in her voice. “But you already have many chiffon saris”, the man would reply meekly. “Yes”, agrees his wife, “but I don’t have one to go with my new bandhani blouse”. It occurs to the man to ask why in blazes did she not buy a new bandhani blouse to go with one of her many chiffon saris, but he checks himself for he knows the futility of attempting to counter female logic. Buying one article of clothing in order to require another article of clothing is a gambit passed on from mother to daughter, generation after generation.

It is generally of little consequence to women whether their clothes indicate good taste in colour or pattern, or even whether they fit. I’ve seen a woman searing a shocking pink silk sari in bright sunlight. She ruined my day. The paramount consideration is that the clothes be of this year’s style, or better still, this month’s. Asked to wear an out-of-fashion dress because it is nice looking and has been worn only a few times before, women have been heard to say: “I’d rather die”. They would too.

The latest in fashion is only one reason for buying new clothes. Another is, “Sonia has one”. Or. spoken in a tone of mingled irritation and condescension, calculated to reduce a husband to quivering helplessness: “Everybody has one”. What do you do in such cases? If you try suggesting that Sonia’s husband is a man of better means, it will elicit such comments as: “Then why don’t you earn more? Aren’t you as smart as he is?” You could also suggest buying something cheaper than what everyone else has. This will almost certainly be rejected but it just might set her thinking. There is always the possibility that the doorbell will ring or the lid will be blown off the pressure cooker and the whole thing will be forgotten, though not for long.

The best way, of course, is to give in and buy such clothing as your wife demands. Think how happy this will make not only your wife but also the local shopkeepers. If more husbands similarly give in, it might even stimulate the flagging economy and reduce the national debt, even as your own debt increases.

Finally, have you heard about the husband who was hospitalised for shell shock? He suggested to his wife that she could buy as many clothes as she wanted by selling some of her seldom-used jewellery. She exploded.