Tag Archives: India

Flying the British flag in India…


just the shorts

Of all the things to buy in India!!!  Union flag shorts!  The only thing missing is a belly button piercing to go with my tattoo, and I will have made a complete U-turn and reverted back to teenage hood!  ‘And some Doc Martens boots,’ adds Indian Man In The Know knowingly.  Too hot for India, or my impending holiday, but certainly something to keep in mind for the UK!

I have had to spruce up my Indian wardrobe!!  My holiday is approaching and I need to stock up on suitable clothes as there will be no need for churidars where I am heading.  Nepal, a country on the backpackers route, will have seen it all and most sins can be covered up with a t-shirt and baggy trousers or shorts.  And you may be fooled in thinking that this little sojourn northwards was unplanned, but no, wheels were set in motion before my departure to India in May.  I bought some nicely fitting walking trousers with elasticated waistband to allow for shrinking and expansion issues and I invested in a brand new pair of shorts to accommodate my smaller, new size!!!

A hurried visit to a large M&S store near my daughter’s just before my travels came up trumps!  Summer was still approaching in the UK, so plenty of choice in the shorts department.  Although I squeezed into a size 8, I felt that I preferred the comfort of a slightly more roomy size 10…  I was fully aware that my few months in England had resulted in putting on some weight, but I studied my bone structure and thought that at least my hips would not change in size, so size 10 it was…  And then I put them on last weekend and needed to find some safety pins to cope with the excess space…  Indian food clearly works in a magical way on my metabolism.

blue shorts

So yesterday, I ventured into Trivandrum, where I had spotted shorts on display not that long ago.  Keeping fingers crossed that the summer season here was still in full swing, I did not anticipate too many difficulties.  But even here, summer seems to come to an abrupt halt when the months of September and October approach and choice there was none!!!  At least not in my tiny size…  Indian sizes, there was variety aplenty, but when looking at size 30 (American sizes…) and less, the racks looked unpromising…  until I found the Union Jack!!!  Not quite my usual style, I would admit, but quite pleasing nonetheless and the shorts FIT!

So I shall be wearing them at all possible occasions:  I am British and Proud of it!  And just to let you know, I declined to join in with India’s Independence celebrations last weekend – after all it was us they threw out…


shorts pic

The joys of shopping… or not

Having spent the last two weekends familiarising myself with the locality of N., I am slowly getting the hang of shopping. The town has a supermarket within walking distance of my house, but some things remain elusive. After dealing with the language barrier and the fact that English is not spoken by everyone, I have finally discovered where to buy the basics of life:

  • butter – bought from the baker’s, of course!!!
  • yoghurt (or curd) is stocked in the vegetable shops – still not entirely sure whether the ‘curd’ is actually yoghurt, but the internet says so…
  • needles for finishing off my beanbags are found in the sewing machine repair shop – I accept there is some logic in that.
  • safety pins to keep my shawls in place – after a few days of battling to keep them on my shoulders I discovered the well-kept Indian secret of using safety pins – come from the shoe shop. Not entirely sure of the reason, but maybe safety pins come in handy when shoes fall apart…
  • leggings… that’s another story. Another pair so tight only a chicken can fit in – there must definitely be something wrong with my calf muscles.  And some of the new clothes I bought in India seeped so much dye in the washing machine that it would be enough to colour the whole of the Ganges in various shades of rainbow.
  • I have discovered where they hide the delights of cheese (plastic variety in little wrappers, but who cares…); frozen peas (not quite Bird’s Eye quality) and sweetcorn. I have sampled frozen chicken – more bone than flesh – and know that when I can stomach it, fresh chicken can be had.
  • Living (almost) next to a local hotel with a good restaurant means I can indulge in delicacies such as parathas (plain or stuffed), naan breads etc. but I must resist the temptation to have too many take aways though.prawns
  • fish… well, even accompanied by a local teacher I ended up with a week’s supply of prawns.  When the lady selling the prawns at the fish market pointed to her two piles of prawns, quoting prices of 50 and 100 rupees, I assumed she meant the price per kilo.  Not that I noticed any weighing scales, but then again, I was not looking.  As the prawns in the more expensive pile looked much bigger, I opted for those as I intended to buy a handful to add my egg-fried rice supper…  I was surely not expecting her to immediately wrap up the whole heap in newspaper and hand them over to me in exchange for my 100 rupee note.  It took me a whole hour to wash (yes, they came with fresh sea sand attached, so maybe it is just as well they are not sold by weight), clean, behead, and peel the mound of prawns on my kitchen worktop.  On the upside, I had a rather tasty prawn curry for my supper, added numerous prawns to my egg-fried rice the next day and still have some in the freezer to use later on this week..  And all of this for £1 and so far no ill effects…  No need yet to unpack the Immodium.

However, it may be wise to learn at least some local lingo, starting with the numbers -especially big ones – in Malayalam.  For some reason the cost of my vegetables has increased exponentially now that I go out shopping without ‘chaperones’ and having sleeves put in tops is definitely more expensive because I am English…  I think I understand enough of the body language, interaction and facial expressions of other customers to know when I am being diddled.  At least I have found a really nice and kind man who sells me two big and tasty bananas for just 7p (7 rupees); now that is a place where I shall visit again….

When in Rome, do as the Romans do…

Wearing Western clothes may be a bit of an issue after all… I felt fairly secure that in the confines of my own accommodation, going Western would have been wholly acceptable, but may have to revise the situation, unless I keep all doors and windows closed and only receive visitors by appointment.

There I was in the kitchen minding my own business and brewing a well-needed cup of tea when suddenly a face appeared through the window. Although I am always careful to dress appropriately when going out, I do not apply the same amount of care in my own house, so I was not exactly dressed for friendly people making conversation through kitchen windows. Conversation in this instance is clearly an exaggeration as my Malayalam is non-existent and the milkman’s English has reached the same level of proficiency. I do not think that standing in the kitchen scantily dressed in very short shorts and a strappy t-shirt without bra is the dress code expected for women in India and it may have been because of this that the milkman was more than persistent in trying to explain that he was there to milk the cows – in all the confusion and gestures I offered him a cup of water thinking that he was a poor man without a home who was thirsty… What was clearly body language for ‘milking cow’ looked very much like ‘hoisting a heavy bucket of water from a well’… The things that get lost in translation…

Anyway, I only found out that the face at the kitchen window belonged to the milkman, because I got caught out again on the same day… Having ignored my doorbell on numerous occasions before and left neighbours and workmen unattended – in my defence, I did not realise that the chirpy bird sound I occasionally heard was the sound of my doorbell – I felt it would be very impolite not to answer… I was still wearing the garments described above; as it was well past supper time, I did not expect anyone and it might have been a friendly female neighbour coming for a chat. In the event, it was Anundu, a local boy who came with a welcome offering of flowers and promises of help with chores and shopping (for a not yet discussed or agreed payment…). How could I not invite him in for a chat and a cup of Indian Darjeeling tea (brewed as only a ‘foreign visitor to India without a teapot’ would do it: using two cups and a strainer!)? I am not sure whether I should have politely made my excuses and withdrawn to the bedroom to find a big shawl to cover my upper body and possibly a towel to tie around my waist, but I sat through the experience and tried not to think of the poor boy’s mother who would probably have been mortified at the thought of her son being in the company of a ‘woman of loose morals’. I wonder what the locals will be saying about me, because even wearing the appropriate clothes I do get stares, so maybe for now I should be grateful that I do not yet understand a word of Malayalam and am spared any gossip….

By the way, it was Anandu who shed light on the appearance of the milkman at the kitchen window – he comes twice a day to milk the cows. This is clearly a small town where everyone knows everyone, so maybe I should just cover up to be on the safe side as after all some of the town’s children are at the school where I teach. Well, I shall definitely don a bra from now on….