I was born and brought up in Madurai, a temple city and a place that is culturally rich. As such, values are perhaps more traditional there. As I grew up, we wore only the half-saree. It was what young girls who were not yet married, were supposed to wear. Later came the chudhidar. College-going girls adopted it and wore a double-sided shawl pinned to the shoulders of their kurta. Until the time I graduated, these were the type of clothes I was used to wearing.
After I graduated, my father suggested that I go to Chennai to do a post-graduate programme. Chennai was a huge culture shock. For the first time, I was exposed to the t-shirt and jeans culture. Friends and acquaintances told me that I should have my hair cut and change the way I dress if I wanted to be considered trendy or ‘with it’. To keep up with everyone else, I was forced to make those changes. At the same time, some part of me wanted to hold on to what I had grown up with.
After post-graduation, I joined a prominent airline and worked at the Chennai airport where my job required me to wear formal shirt and pants. This job was my first experience with wearing pants. At first, I felt strange but after some time I got used to wearing them. I was still not into wearing ‘trendy’ clothes whereas everyone around me was. I was even criticized that I wasn’t fashionable enough.
Since moving to Bangalore, I have become much more comfortable with western clothing than I used to be. I enjoy wearing T-shirts, jeans, pants, palazzos and so on. At the same time, I never go out without throwing a shawl around my shoulders in a way that looks stylish and still helps me keep my sense of modesty. I believe that I’ve found a happy middle ground between staying true to the values I’ve always known and fitting in with modern styles. I don’t think that I have to forget my roots or compromise on what I’m comfortable with in order to be fashionable.