A Saturday long ago…

Another Saturday afternoon. Suddenly discovering that he does not have to go back to work after lunch, my husband snaps his fingers. “Let’s go shopping!” He says. “I have nothing to wear these days…”

The store is almost empty. Salesmen fight sleep after lunch.

My husband cannot decide between 2 pairs of trousers and 3 tee shirts. Confused, he decides to try them all & disappears into the changing room, with strict instructions to me, to stay right outside, so he does not have to hunt me down for my opinion, wearing clothes which sprout labels from all sides.

Left to my own devices, I browse through some jazzy shirts.

“Hey! This will look great on you!”

Startled, I turn around.

A middle-aged man, accompanied by two middle-aged ladies. A girl just-into-her-teens gapes. The more flamboyant of the ladies holds up colorful shirt to the man. The quiet one passively watches.

Finally having found something to interest me, I study the small group surreptiously, taking care not to stare.

This is one of the most enjoyable games I indulge myself in, when I have to wait around. People watching. I try to guess who they are, what their relationship is and what can be their story.

This one is curious. Is this is a middle aged couple and their daughter, out shopping with his visiting sister? I look at them closely. No! Absolutely no resemblance. Or maybe it’s her sister. Little chance of that too, since they lack the closeness shared by most sisters.

Or can she be his second wife? Asks a small voice in my head.

No way!

Why not? Persists the voice. It’s not so uncommon in this part of the world for a man to live peacefully with both his wives under one roof. I have even heard of such a threesome sharing the same bedroom, and the rest of the house with a bunch of children from both the wives!

“What do you think?” My husband’s voice breaks into my reverie. He’s in a gray polo neck t-shirt and a black trousers. ‘Smart” I tell him. “But don’t you have the same Tee shirt?”

“No!” he says petulantly. “I never had something like this!” “Okay.” I say placating. He vanishes into the changing room again.

I turn my attention back to the family, but they seem to have drifted off to another part of the store. I busy myself with some formal ties.

I suddenly sense some movement behind me. Two girls walking hand in hand. One of them is extremely shy. An elderly gentleman follows them, authoritatively. Can’t be their father. And the girls, can they be sisters? And what on earth are they doing in the menswear section? And so tongue-tied and shy!

The answer strides in, very self-conscious. A young man follows the older man, shyly glancing at the blushing girl.

A-ha! A just-betrothed couple, trying to choose the wedding suit! No wonder the girl is so shy in front of her father-in-law to be! And the other girl must be her best friend, lending moral support in times of crisis like this! Who wouldn’t be nervous with such an imposing father-in-law!

Just then my husband returns with an armful of clothes.

“Can I just run up to the bookstore? Please?” I ask him. Without waiting for his answer I charge up the stairs.

Browsing through the latest best seller, I spot the curious family in the adjacent coffee shop. Relaxed, they lounge with a cup in their hands. The flamboyant woman is enthusiastically narrating something to the shy one. “…And you must have seen the teacher’s face! This Raghu, your husband was such a terror in our school days!” The girl looks at her father with great wonder.

The ‘terror’, now much tamed, balding and with a paunch is much abashed and embarrassed!

“How silly of me!” I chide myself. To think that she was his second wife! I feel really guilty.

As I reach my husband’s side at the billing counter, he holds two lovely kurtas to me. “Look what I bought you! Saw them and thought it was very ‘you’!

“Oh! They’re beautiful!” I gush. “You’re the best! Thank you!”

I see a movement in the corner of my eye.

A 20 something girl is busy inspecting some men’s’ formal wear, near the men’s changing room. She studies us surreptiously, trying not to stare.

I grab my husband’s arm.

“Let’s get out of here.” I say.

Published in Femina, June 2003 Issue
Long before my son was born and we actually had jobless saturdays!



  1. maami said,

    July 20, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Care to go shopping with me?

    🙂 Sure, baby! Anytime!!

  2. rekharaghav said,

    July 20, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Haha.. Shopping is fun for more reasons than buying new stuff for yourself I guess. I do something similar too. Invariably when I see desis with parents, I am trying to figure out whose parents, and which part of India etc. Not that I gain much out of it, just that I am curious avlo thaan. Which reminds me, in my office restroom, there was a girl talking on the phone in chaste telugu, and from the few minutes I was there, I have to say I learnt a whole deal about her relationship with her husband.

    Haha!!! I guess people watching is much more interesting in the U. S of A!!! 🙂

  3. davematt said,

    July 21, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Very interesting piece Padma. The best place to do this is at airports and malls.

    Thanx! 🙂

  4. Pradeep said,

    July 24, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    One thing I cannot fathom is why/how people are so much in love with shopping. My shopping sessions for clothes typically last 10-15 mins.

    “Anne, orange small checks la oru half sleeve shirt, appuram oru brown stripe full sleeve shirt, black/brown trousers kaatunga..” (In the shop, I would mention the size of course, which is concealed here for obvious reasons. 😀 )

    I happily pick up from the 2-3 shirts/pants he shows me.

    All maamis here, indha matter a veliya sollidathel.. appuram enakku ponne kidaikkaadhu.. 😦

    I’m a quick shopper too.. No patience to go over the whole stock! But nothing like retail therapy to lift your spirits!!! 🙂

  5. buddy said,

    July 24, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    this is what you meant when you said men were picky!
    people browsing when i ask them to wait right outside the changing room is a favourate pet peeve of mine 🙂

    Yup! This is what I’d promised to post.

  6. maxdavinci said,

    July 29, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    wonderful post, was fun reading it…

    my lady frnds thallukufy me when they go shoppin for my tastes. While they tryout something I look at other couples and try to guess if they are married or not!

    Thanx! 🙂

  7. Rada said,

    July 30, 2008 at 12:30 pm


    Recently on a flight from Delhi to Chennai, I picked up a newspaper, I think it was Mail Today or something where there was an article on female bloggers with the photographs of a few of them.

    There was the photograph of this strikingly beautiful young lady.

    Turned out to be you! 🙂

    Way to go, Padmaja!

    Thank you!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: