Memory Lane’s ‘Pash’

(Drafted: 23rd July 2012)

‘Pash’ Khosla  never got herself threaded, or in her words ‘made’. Nor did she ‘destroy’ her body the way women do today.

Pash Khosla (née Sohni) by Tanisha Sharma
Pash Khosla

”Does she ever let me say a few words, or complete a sentence?” her daughter in law quibbles from the kitchen, as Pash talks to me. The kitchen is not a place where her daughter in law has been constrained to, but one she feels obliged to function in. And so she unloads her pent up frustrations from there ; about how her mother in law must see, hear and have her say in anything that takes place within the walls of her house.  “She even instructs me on how I should make my hair”. However, one glance at the venerable lady, with permanent smile lines and bright eyes tucked behind paper thin, crinkly lids and this complaint loses its fire. If it had any at all. Mothers rarely grow out of their ‘instructing’ ways and I bet in Pash’s eyes she was merely fulfilling her duty.

The Other Mrs Khosla by Tanisha Sharma
The Other Mrs Khosla (Daughter in Law)

Prakash Sohni is her birth name.

Writing ‘Ram’ in the countless squares of her gridded notebook, she finds solace.  With silver hair flowing from her temples to the nape of her neck, she recites mantras from a timeworn book, through creased lips that inflate and deflate with every word.

Her and her daughter in law are more in sync than they realise. Whenever they have something to say, they express their statements simultaneously. Whoever has the chance of being in their company is subjected to stereo-sound banter. I have often felt their words squeezing into my ears, sparking and melting with one another.

Prakash  wanted to go to the temple yesterday, and she was taken last night. Today she wants to eat chaat, so perhaps she will be treated to some this evening. “She always gets her way and then acts as if we do nothing for her”, her daughter in law mumbles as she sweeps her shopping plans to the side.

Pash needs to look forward to something everyday so that she doesn’t have to dwell on her memories,  good and bad.

She’s the only person I know who has lived in the thick of Delhi’s blood soaked streets during the partition. When I asked her about that period in her life,  her face changed to one tinged with melancholy. At first she refused to relay what she witnessed, “Please child, don’t make me remember.” I retracted, and then she slowly told me about  the bloodied bodies she saw on staircases in the neighbourhood, and her brother ducking on the floor of a Muslim commissioner’s jeep in order to escape from a village outside of Lahore.

He escaped with his two friends and a 14 year old girl who had lost her parents. They were driven to Amritsar and took shelter in the Golden Temple, like many others. Prakash’s brother survived, but was haunted by the image of the young girl whose only words were    “Mujhe ghar jaana hai” ( I want to go home) which she whispered repeatedly throughout the ordeal. She would take a tiny helping of food and retreat to her spot; a small space close to the roof , until one day she was found dead there and no one could hear her pitiful voice again.

Hands of Wisdom by Tanisha Sharma

Pash has more than a dozen grandchildren and at the age of 88 (which is a rough estimate since she doesn’t know when she was born) she is ready to pack her bags and catch 20 hour flights to meet them.  I’m glad I got to know such a fiery woman and look forward to meeting her again.

A Time To Revamp Fashion Features

People generally relegate fashion bloggers to “airheads”, claiming that all they do is “commoditize” fashion victims. They fail to see that they have an important role in society as  they observe and criticize trends.Many readers choose to comply with a popular look for the sake of being socially accepted, and this draws our attention to how different trends represent people collectively, depending on where they are and what they choose to value.

Looking at the different epochs of fashion, nothing could be more intriguing than the ‘flapper girl’ phenomenon of the late 1920′s.

During the Great Economic Depression, women were expected to keep up with the norms of wearing stockings outside the home. Due to the dire conditions, most began to wear sheer varieties that were poorer in quality. Many simply took charcoal and drew vertical lines at the back of their calves up till their knees! The Flapper Girl costumes, which were a rage, were simple satin tunics with tasseled lace, buttons and stone-sequined work. Women tended to make tassels out of their ragged clothes. The hairstyles looked greasier. Tight curls stuck to the head, most probably the result of downgraded lifestyles which didn’t allow many to bathe and perfume themselves as they did before. As the unit of female labour in factories soared , the craze was to look more masculine ; a statement of economic independence. This went hand in hand with the ‘red lipstick madness’ during the 1940’s , symbolizing adult sexuality and womanhood.

Soon the economic boom of the late 50’s  splashed onto Hollywood and other movie capitals around the world. The skinny Flapper Girl was now told to blossom and increase in dimension. Full-figured actresses paved the way for bigger hair, tighter skirts, brighter lipsticks and vibrant pumps, something we happen to idolize in fashion magazines today.Everything had to be bigger, recreated if lacking, heightened and overtly sensual.

The 1980′s called for an androgynous look for men and women. It was about defying every norm there was in fashion and film. Were the outcomes terrible? Sometimes they were, but they were iconic. People were now financially comfortable and were caught up in the excitement of technological advancement (traces of which could  be seen in the wave of “sci-fi” films an robotic dance moves) .

While brands became a way of life, the 90’s was about the destruction of the superficial self. Baggy t-shirts, blue or black lipstick, formless hair and ripped jeans filled up our screens that were most likely tuned to MTV. It was concerned with appearing to not care about how you looked.

Posts on fashion allow people to  choose what style to mimic, and to observe changes in fads, believing that they unveil certain characteristics of people in particular socio-economical situations across the world. In the long run, people need to let their hair down, and stop worrying about “what’s in or out’’, because things will come around full circle, eventually.