You are backpacking in Europe. You are soaking in the atmosphere – the beautiful, beautiful architecture, the sound of laughter from street side cafes, the cobble-stoned streets, the bright and pretty flowers framed within beautifully paneled windows – history and beauty competing for your attention.
And then you see her. She’s wearing a beautiful white summer dress, comfortable flat sandals, a leather sling bag, over-sized sunglasses, and an attitude that screams “I look gorgeous”. Her hair is left untied in spite of the heat, her fingernails look like they have been scrubbed every single hour, and her tan looks like it’s a gift from the Sun gods. And then she looks across the street at you…and she smiles…and you think maybe you could talk. Perhaps you could help her with the huge boulder-like suitcase that’s next to her. And then you gape in wonder…as her delicate frame lifts the monstrosity with ease, and heaves it on to the tram. With the ease of well-seasoned traveler.
That girl is NOT me.
It’s around 2 am and you are standing outside a hostel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The night is humid and quiet, as the streets and shops take a break from the bustle of the day. The backpackers around you talk in whispers – not wanting to disturb the neighbors, or maybe gaiety is too exhausting at this hour. She’s leaning against the gate, smoking, occasionally smiling at the comments made by her companions. Her tall frame is clad in a cotton spaghetti and dark harem pants; sturdy sandals, a colorful stole around her neck, a tattoo on one wrist, and a beady bracelet on the other one. Her hair’s tied up in a loose messed up bun, and her sling bag looks like it’s seen better times. And then she throws back her head and laughs…laughs with an attitude that screams “I don’t care.” And you realize that she is gorgeous.
That girl is ALSO NOT me.
Those are the girls I envy. The ones who travel the world with ease, and often – AND, and very importantly, the ones who look gorgeous while doing so. You must have met them – in Europe, in Thailand, in India, in Bangalore. They are all over the place – looking so cool, and so gorgeous, and apparently without the slightest bit of effort. And I hate them. Really.
My aversion to such characters is not without reason. Or without logic. Let me explain.
You know how you see my pictures on Flickr or Facebook, and leave comments on the beautiful landscapes, and gorgeous buildings? And then you talk about how lucky I am to travel so much…but then why so few pics with me in it? Well, this is the thing – I do not look my best while I am travelling. Well, scratch that – even at home, I am not exactly a stylist’s dream, but while travelling, I seem to be totally un-coordinated and hopeless in my selection of clothes. On top of it, I do not have ‘bad hair days’ as people say – I have ‘bad hair vacations’. And while there seems to be a lot of hikers who have a glowing face, after a 4 hour trek, I actually get tanned in five different shades, but that’s probably just adding character to my face. Speaking of tans, I love beach vacations. In addition to the memories, and the pictures, I get to bring home a completely new me. No, seriously. Good friends and colleagues often fail to recognize me. The hubby does, but that’s probably because he’s with me on the trip, and is in the unenviable position of watching the evolution of a butterfly to caterpillar.
First, let’s talk clothes. I suck. At buying them. And wearing them. Especially when I am travelling. And it’s not for want for trying. I actually spent a lot of money before every trip, promising myself that “these clothes” are going to be a long term investment, and that I will not buy clothes the next time. But I do, every single time. And no matter how much I try to coordinate my clothes, I make the most embarrassing fashion faux pas (embarrassing for others, not me). I never realize my faux pas, till my poor friends tell me. Like that time when my friend Smits calls me and exclaims in horror “You are wearing long socks with capris!”. Well, it was cold, and I thought that long socks could do me no harm.
But apparently, it damaged my reputation irrevocably. Then, there was the time I was taken for a homeless person in Canada, and treated to hot coffee, a doughnut, and a lot of compassion. Yeah true. Apparently, if you wear a dark over sized sweater, yoga pants, well worn sneakers, and think its important to be comfortable for an overnight journey, you could be mistaken for a homeless soul. My two friends and I were travelling to a remote town in the Canadian Rockies. It was a small bus stop, and there weren’t too many people hanging out. Since we were very early, I wandered around, and discovered that the tiny station had a small waiting room. Excited at the prospect of escaping the biting cold outside, I stepped inside to the smell of coffee and cake. I would have happily paid a fair bit of money for the warm coffee, but strangely, there was a board at the counter that said “free coffee”. An elderly lady walked across the room, and offered me some cake as well. I didn’t want any, but I did want the coffee, and I didn’t want to be rude, so I accepted both. And then another lady came over, and we all got together, and had the weirdest conversation ever. Oh, they were both very kind, but when I told them that I was from India, they looked a bit confused. To be fair, they valiantly carried forward with the conversation, and made me even more uncomfortable than before. And then they told me about God, and how he could help me, and offered me some more coffee, and a pamphlet on Jesus. At this point, my friends arrived, and I thought I was about to be rescued. Of course, being such good friends, they came inside, took some coffee, smiled at all of us, and ran. By this time, I was offered more cake, more salvation, and more faith. I ran behind my friends. And then later, as the bus turned the corner, I looked back and the penny dropped. It was a church and a homeless shelter. The poor ladies. They must have really felt sad for the Indian girl who came this far, and was homeless. Yeah, poor ladies.
So yeah, I hate all those women who can just wear the simplest of things – put on a stole, and look like a million bucks. Because I can’t.
I have always been the capri girl. Much to the chagrin of my friends. I live in my capris. And sneakers. All those comments about wearing “age-appropriate” clothes seem to have had zero impact on my wardrobe. Maybe not. Just so that I can terrify the fashion police, I have added a new item to my wardrobe. Men’s shorts. Yeah, you heard it right. Well, they are knee length, they are comfortable, they have lots of pockets, and most importantly, they can be borrowed from the hubby. So, why not. Okay, don’t answer that.
I have to confess that it’s been much tougher after I have put on weight. 10 year back, I still whined about my pics, but now that I look back at them, I was so damn cool! Youth and a slim body does make you feel attractive. A lot more attractive. And a lot more confident. So yeah, I am working on that, and that’s a whole different post.
Should we talk hair? If you know me at this point in my life, you probably know that I have half re-bonded hair, and half wavy hair. That should tell you a fair lot. Word of advice. Do not straighten your hair. Ever. That’s unless you want to have a phase in your life, where you look like a cross between Billy Ray Cyrus, and Bob Marley.
Makeup? Umm. I asked my friend Smits about a lipstick two years back. She bought it for me two weeks back, when she realized that I wasn’t ever going to buy one. She was wrong. I buy lip stick every time I have an official business trip, and then I leave it in the 101 hand bags I own. I like handbags. I have quite a few of them. I also have tons of other accessories. Watches. Chunky Silver jewelry. Stoles. Now watch me, mix and match all of them – no, don’t claw your eyes!
What does this all mean?
It means searching for that right angle so that I get at least two nice photographs that I could put up on my blog. And it does mean that I really need a stylist.
Any volunteers? 🙂