Recently, I found myself reading a travel magazine that highlighted the delights of San Francisco. San Francisco is one of those delightful cities that has so much to offer the free soul. I pored over the food options like a snooty gourmet, and realized that the thing to do was to catalog all the ingredients in the menu option. I realized my folly. I should not be saying idli & sambhar for dinner. I should be saying rice cakes made from fermented rice and lentils ground to a perfect consistency & lentils (not the same lentils used for the idlis, another type) with tamarind from local farms with just a touch of coriander and grape tomatoes from the Napa valley.
I should pitch in the local motif strongly, till people stop me to ask, local to where? Eh. The sturdy plains of the Cauvery delta maybe or the African plains? I mean, does tamarind grow elsewhere?
Then, I went on to the shopping pages to find that local boutiques were marketing their wares. Locally designed and tailored by seamstresses in San Francisco, it screamed.
I can see things shrewdly sometimes. It seems to me that local is good, not-local not-good. I wonder when things changed.
Human-beings have many faults. One of them is yearning for something that is not currently available to one and all. Exclusivity. That’s the thing we go for. Take the whole local vs foreign thing. I remember when I was growing up in a small mountain village in South India, people distinctly preferred the Made in <Country other than India>. Shiny material from Singapore was higher rated than polyesters made in Calico mills, India. Soaps from Dubai better than plain-raj Hamam. You get the gist. Foreign better than local.
It was a different matter altogether that no matter the source of the material, the actual stitching was done by the local tailoring talent. In our case, Paada or Gobi: Stalwart tailors, both of whom deserve a separate series of blogs to themselves. Paada was the tailor who stitched our clothes. Gobi did the honors for the father’s baggy coats and pants. Paada was the one who would stop at our home on the way back from work in the school, take measurements and give us fashion design suggestions as to what would work best with the cloth at hand.
Paada knew the kind of fashions that was approved of by the parents, and those that would appeal to the young at heart. The parents seemed to think that if the clothes we wore belonged to the time and age of their youth, our outlook would too, and they would not have to worry about the common disease that afflicted young women about being the Modern-Girl and all that. It seemed to us that the kind of fashions that appealed to the parents belonged best in a Jane Austen book, and so an impasse was reached.
Paada stepped in gallantly at times like these. He was a soft-spoken, medium sized, middle-aged man with a gentle smile. I sometimes doubt whether Paada might have done well for himself in the Diplomatic Services. His suggestions were smack in between the parents’ and ours. For example, if my parents wanted a maxi (full-length dress) with a full-hand sleeve, and we wanted a knee-length skirt with a top having a puffed sleeve stopping thirteen inches above the elbow, he thought hard and wielded his magic wand i.e. tape measure, and suggested something that pleased both parties. Something like a skirt that was mid-way between ankle and knee, with an elbow length sleeve top. Then he’d suggest using the remaining cloth to bung in a hideous looking shirt for the little sibling.
As you can imagine, that was not always the most pleasing to the eye, and made us look like Thing 1, Thing 2 and Thing 3. But it half pleased the affected parties, and he got his pay, life was good. Fashion has left many scars on the Bala household.
The point is that we had local tailors, seamstresses and custom made local fashions, and much as we liked dear old Paada and Gobi, we did not care for it, since the in-thing at the time was ready-made fashions preferably made abroad and imported. If Paada & Gobi were to set up shop in San Francisco now, however, they would be the hot fellows in demand. Interesting.