Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Clothes Shopping, Old Shala, Making Chai

Shopping for clothes in Mysore is... well... a DIFFERENT experience. I guess we're all used to stepping into a store and browsing through racks of pret-a-porter clothes in S, M, L sizes. I'm not sure if it's just a Mysore thing or an India thing or maybe I just haven't found the "right" shops yet where you can walk in and buy what you want off the rack (without getting ripped off).

I've been looking for those Ali Baba pants (or trousers, for my UK friends)... y'know, those hideous harem pants with a dropped crotch? (Evelyn, I know how you lurrrrrrrrve these so much. NOT.)

Yes, they're hideous, but I can't explain why I want a pair. Maybe I can. They were just too much of a fashion statement even up to a year ago when everyone was wearing them. But now that they're no longer everywhere and all the rage, they just look so comfortable. I pretty much live in leggings, but even long leggings up to the ankles here seem too risque unless I have a really LONG top over them. LONG as in up to the knees kinda long. Yeah seriously, they're conservative here.

I've been living in only the 2 Thai fishermen's pants I've brought (other than a few other pairs of leggings that I no longer wear here. Leggings seem VERY out of context here; I feel too naked and don't want to attract unwanted attention!) Y'know Thai fishermen's pants? They're kinda loose and baggy, tied at the waist and rolled down at the top? (Is it me or does he have man-cleavage?)

So I figure harem pants are kind of a good mash-up between leggings and fishermen's pants. And kinda-sorta have an Indian-ish theme to them. Kinda sorta.

BUT... NOBODY HERE SELLS THEM!!! The ones I've seen are hideous and have HORRIBLE Om symbols all over them or are just printed with ghastly elephants or swirls. Y'know, horrible hippy-esque styles.

So I went with a friend to a store in town today to find them. She was going to the tailor there and said there'd be loads of stuff I could look through. Here's the thing. Most of the "clothes stores" I've walked into here look like this:

It's just rows of stuff neatly folded away. Um... HUH?! Basically, you need to ask them for what you want. And then the dude behind the table will start taking out samples of stuff to show you. I suppose it's kinda handy that I already have something in mind of what I'm looking for, but the weird way of shopping like this is - the dude starts taking out one after another of all the wrong things. So by the end of it, you've got a pile of clothes on the table and an unsatisfied customer (ie. it's not very efficient!)

Then I learned that OK - if they don't have EXACTLY what I want, they can MAKE IT for me.

CUSTOMIZING!!! How fun! You all know how I LOVE customizing my stuff, right? (Check out previous posts on my customized bike, blinged-out phone, etc) I'm pretty new at customizing, aka tailoring, clothes. My friend came all prepared. She's come here a few years in a row now and knows the drill, coming with samples in hand!! So you pretty much show them your reference, then you pick the cloth.

This whole affair becomes quite a social thing. Coz you sit there and chit-chat with the people in the shop, they order you a Chai from the corner shop, then you agonize over the colour, quality and feel of the material. And of course, how the final piece will look, how the material will fall where, etc. It's a feck-load of trouble for a simple pair of CHEAP-O trousers I just need to run about around Mysore in, if you ask me!! Good thing I liked the references of Ali Baba pants my friend brought so that made the explaining a lot easier.

By the end of the affair, this is what the table of cloth bales look like. And the poor assistants have to roll them all up and put them back.

They showed me you can get anything you want done here, down to: SPORTS BRAS. No kidding. Look at the Jockey catalog reference! HAHAHAHA!

The whole affair took us about 2.5 hours. (!!!) Granted, my friend had quite a few items she was making, but it was kinda fun going through the stuff. You just need to have the time, that's all.

More food porn shots for today. My South Indian Thali on the left, and North Indian Thali on the right already half-polished off:

Then in the afternoon, we drove by the old Ashtanga shala in Lakshmipuram. Y'know, the infamous one where ALL the first Western students practiced in? The one that could fit only 10 or 12 students at a time? The one where we're all told that this generation of Ashtanga practitioners have it good coz "the old shala" this and "the old shala" that... etc.? WE SAW IT!! (OK, just the exterior only...)

Lakshmish, who teaches our Chanting and Sanskrit classes, still teaches classes here apparently. I poked my head into the one open window and look what I saw! It's Guruji hanging up there! I wonder if this was the "waiting room" foyer like we have in the current shala or is this the ACTUAL room they practiced in? (I like how there are kids toys in there now)

After this "pilgrimage", we went to Joy House around the corner, where all the students used to have their morning coffee or chai after practice. THIS PLACE IS TOO CUTE!!! You sit on benches facing each other, and right in the middle, there are cookie jars of snacks - savoury or sweet cookies.

(Dude on the right has ORANGE hair. No, he's not a natural-born Ginger. BAHAHAHAHA! There are many local men with this orange hair phenomenon. I have yet to find out what's up with that!)

Here are 2 videos of the dude making Chai. He boils the tea leaves, milk and sugar in a big pot, then strains it through a muslin cloth. To froth it up, he pretty much "pulls" the tea from low to high with skill. Oh... FYI... I saw his son wash that muslin cloth from... er... it wasn't even rinsed under the tap. He pretty much scooped water from a pail and rinsed out the cloth from that. And yes, I drank the Chai. LOOK! I'm still surviving and living to tell the tale. :)

I think I can stop brushing my teeth with bottled water now. (Yes, I have REALLY been brushing my teeth with bottled, filtered water. Like Charlotte in the Sex & The City movie when they went to Mexico.)

UH-OH. Because I've been writing this post, I haven't done tomorrow's Sanskrit homework yet. And it's 9.30pm and bedtime. Good night!


  1. I will forgive you for the MC Hammer pants, but only because it's YOU and you're young and cute and have the personality to pull such dreadful things off. But still, don't get too comfy in them, they're still terrible!!!

    I love the orange hair!! I wonder if they're trying to go blond and it turns orange? (not that a blond Indian man would look any better. ew)

    You and your camera! Peeking into windows!! HA HA!! You should be a private eye on the side.

  2. Well I was only in Goa 2 weeks and I went from "I will NEVER wear those trousers" to "hmm...maybe i could find a cool pair...". Maybe it's just something about India that does it to you!
    Love the camwhoring (can i say that?!) at the old shala too, too cute!! And the orange hair - lordy, you get that on some of the old guys in east london too, some with beards!!!
    But err - I really wouldn't recommend using tap water to brush your teeth. Seriously!! Stick to the bottle, there's really no harm in it.

  3. Dear Jaime
    I like the pants, even though they look like you're going to trip while walking in them. It sounds like over there it's like in the cloth market here in SH, where they can make anything for you. That's cool.

  4. Lemme know how that teeth brushing thing goes!

  5. Jaime, the orange hair is due to henna powder which is what the Indians traditionally use to dye their hair. If you have black/brown hair, there's no change. But if u have white hair, the henna turns it orange. Some mix it with coffee or tea to give it more of a brown/blackish colour. Some commercial brands add chemicals to the henna powder so you don't end up with orange hair.

    fyi. there is a very popular shop called Bee Choo in Singapore who use Chinese herbs to help moisturise hair, treat dandruff, hair loss etc. I swear it's got henna in it because everyone comes out of there with the same orange tint! it's great for conditioning your hair tho, try it next time you're in town

  6. Evelyn - I'm not that young anymore but I shall continue to attempt to... what's the term? "Push fashion boundaries" (hahaha, on a fashion trend that's already out-of-fashion).

    Mel & Sonya - I still haven't plucked up the courage to brush with tap water. I mean... I'm drinking Chai from all over the place and they're probably using tap water to make it, right? And that disgusting muslin cloth he wrung the tea out with? It was washed with water scooped out of a pail!! I mean... If I can stomach that and still be alive... I should be able to brush teeth with tap water. Right...? (Will let you know when I pluck up the courage. Maybe I'll try on Saturday morning, when there's no practice. I'd be mortified if I had to run out of the practice room to go sit on the loo! And everyone in the changing room would be able to hear me!! HAHAHA!)

    Arturo - yes, it's quite a familiar Asian thing... it's done in Hong Kong and Thailand too, but the difference is this seems to be the ONLY way to shop for clothes here. Pret-a-porter off-the-rack clothes are hard to find!

    Denise - AHA! I suspected it might have something to do with Henna. BUT... WHY in the world would anyone want their hair to turn out looking orange?!? (If you know you've got white hair and henna does that to white hair... then WHY DO IT?!) There are some Causasian old ladies who go for a blue rinse and their full head of white hear comes out a touch lavender. I LOVE THAT! I'd probably do that when I'm 80 years old. :)

  7. Hear? I meant "hair"! "Their full head of white HAIR..."


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