In which I become Indian for an evening…

I have always been fascinated by India.  I love the clothes, which are basically colorful fancy pajamas; the food, which has unusual flavors and textures and is eaten with the hands; the dancing (MC Hammer ain’t got nothin’ on the Indians); their gorgeous weddings (brides wear red and grooms wear black!); and of course BOLLYWOOD! I mean, India has it all. So when my new friend Elizabeth told me that she lived in India for two years as a missionary and had a giant tub of Indian clothes that I could try on and wear, I just about peed my pants. Indian clothes I can not only just look at but also wear? I thought I’d died and gone to Delhi.

When my dgroup (Bible study)—which consists of four other ladies: Bethany, Elizabeth, Krystina, and Megan—got wind that I wanted to wear Elizabeth’s Indian clothes, we decided to make a date out of it. We would all dress up in Elizabeth’s many sets of shalwar kameez and dupattas and go to the Indian restaurant, Kha Zana, across the street from Elizabeth’s house (coincidence? I think not) to eat.  It turned out that Bethany visited Elizabeth in India for a few weeks, and she had her own sets of clothes, but they were all in storage, so she had to borrow Elizabeth’s. So on Friday night, May 4th, Bethany, Krystina, Elizabeth, and I met up at Elizabeth’s apartment to get fancy!

Elizabeth had several sets of lady-style shalwar kameez, which is the traditional clothing worn by both men and women in India. She had all different sizes, so we looked through everything until we all had found the perfect outfits! Elizabeth was very generous and let me wear one of her outfits that she had worn to a wedding, which was a beautiful lavender and magenta color with a flowy duputta.

As you can see, I look fabulous. The clothes are very flowy and pajama-like. It’s kind of a one-size-fits-all deal because the pants are all drawstrings. Apparently the drawstrings can come undone, and then your pants are around your ankles. This didn’t happen to me, but it was my greatest fear while wearing them. The shalwar (pants) and kameez (shirt) also came with this magenta scarf called a duputta. (Supposedly it’s there to cover your boobs.) Elizabeth said she started calling it a “stupid-a” while she lived over there because she said it was always choking her or getting caught in rickshaws. Can you imagine? Rickshaws! India sounds like some kind of dreamland. There are three styles of pants for women, and I’m wearing the fancier, bigger, MC Hammer-esque kind. My shoes are my own (Payless, circa 2005), and Elizabeth had a lot of bangles that went with each outfit. Apparently the Indian women cover their arms with bangles, but since there were four of us to spread Elizabeth’s collection upon, we each only wore two or three.

Krystina, in her more casual “pumpkin outfit,” an orange kameez with the skinnier brown shalwar and striped duputta.

Elizabeth explained that the pants Krystina is wearing here were the most uncomfortable because they were restrictive and bunchy on the bottom. And I suppose that if you were wearing them in 120-degree heat, they probably would be pretty awful. But they look cute here!

Here’s Elizabeth wearing a lime green kameez and the other type of shalwar, which is kinda like leggings–these had a cool flowers up the sides. I apologize for the blurry quality of this photo. I was really excited to be wearing these clothes and couldn’t really hold still long enough to take a good picture.

Here is Bethany, wearing just a crimson kameez and a skirt (apparently Elizabeth lost the bottoms that went with this one). Look at this model stance!

The restaurant is owned by an Indian couple, so we were hoping that instead of being made fun of, we would get complimented on our good fashion! Not that I really care what other people think. If I did, would I be wearing this outfit? Probably not. In fact, speaking of what other people think, when we left to go to the restaurant, we walked out to the car and were stopped by a couple of idiots who thought we were dressed for Cinco de Mayo. Bethany kindly explained to them that we were wearing Indian clothes, which was a lot nicer than what I was going to say. I think they still didn’t understand, because when we came back later, the guys were still standing outside the apartment and asked us, “Did you have a good time in Indiana?” Wow.

So, anyway, when we got to Kha Zana, the owner told us we all looked wonderful in our outfits and was very kind. Elizabeth chatted with her a bit about living in India, and we discovered that the owner used to live in Delhi as well! So that was fun. We dined on Kha Zana’s always excellent fare of breads, rices, stews, veggies, and my personal favorite, mango pudding! Krystina had never had Indian food before, so we all tried to point our favorite dishes. I think she liked it!

We really needed a tripod for this picture.

After stuffing our faces, we headed back to Elizabeth’s house and sat around in our pretty clothes. I didn’t want to take them off! In my heart, I’m still wearing it. I thought about buying my own set of Indian clothes, but Bethany told us this hilarious and tragic story about buying furniture in India and having it shipped back to the US, and it’s made me think twice. But that’s a story for another time. I drove home to show Jacob my Indian escapade, wishing I’d at least learned a Bollywood dance move while wearing the shalwar kameez. But alas, thus ended my brief stint as an Indian.


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