No vanity in this chaitra shopping

Durga Puja, with all the glamour associated with it, manages to overshadow all other Bengali festivals. So naturally, a Bengali's wardrobe is not dictated by something as whimsical as a season. Spring, summer be damned, it's fall all the way. But if there is one other festival which manages to provoke the consumerist monster in us (however gentle it might be), it's Nobo Borsho (Bengali New Years). It's more out of compulsion really, for the rulebook of rituals clearly state that we have to start the new year wearing something new. Since the rulebook does not clearly state whether the new attire has to be a formal one or casual, the pragmatic Bengali chooses to interpret the custom in his or her own way.

Thus, a chaitra shopping expedition ends up being a matter-of-fact exercise in what can be best described as "controlled consumerism". Bengali mothers with unwilling moppets in tow throng New Market and Gariahat to buy nighties for themselves, nightsuits for their husbands, bermudas for the male child and tep jama (slips) for the girl child, strictly in that order. The emphasis, as it is evident by the shopping list, is on comfort and not vanity.

The markets too are geared accordingly. No sooner than the first kal baishakhi (North Westerly) hits the city, than New market is festooned with shapeless maxis and nighties in lurid prints ("the messier the print, the easier it is to hide the turmeric stains," a wise kakima once told me). This year too was no different, nighties abounded the shopping hub of Kolkata on a warm April afternoon. Kakimas in shepherded their packs of unwilling kids from one shop to another, college students window shopped and foreign tourists armed with fancy digital cameras took pictures of everything in sight ( "oh look a saree" click, "oh look a pile of sweets" click). And sure enough there was some leisure-wear shopping.

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