I have always hated collars. Ever since our school had uniforms, and frocks had to have collars, like shirts. My tailor, Wasimbhai, knows better than to ask me what kind of collar I want on an outfit, ever since the time I took a ready made outfit to him, to have the collar summarily removed, to enable some decent ventilation in these tropical times.
The other kinds of collars have to do with politicians and goons. I sometimes wonder why I mention them separately.
But one has seen several overnight transformations from local goon to politicians, simply by virtue of a change of dress. From eyes with deadly shades, and a shining blue shirt left half open, with a raised collar, to a sedate-stepping, pseudo-respectable, white khadi kurta wearing personality, who cringes at every abuse word uttered within a radius of 10 feet. These kurtas always have collars. Amazingly, these humble kurta collars when they occur, help you keep your head straight and aid in holding your head up, something the politicians are in dire need of.
Our national elections, have just been announced. Khadi Kurta stitchers have forgotten the spelling of recession. Collars are back in fashion. So it was particularly fitting that I was advised to wear a soft collar recently, post some MRI diagnostic tests, which really tested my musical talent.
I am not known to have either political or "goon" tendencies. I do not plan to enter the election fray. I do not patronize khadi collars. And folks stay away from applauding me. (Forget applauding, no one bothers to look...:-) ...) That disqualifies me from service to the country.
But bus travel is now a breeze. Relatively. I am allowed to board the bus from the exit door, something which has earlier elicited comments on my level of education, my ability to read rules, hear etc etc. The driver takes great care, not to throw the bus into first gear while I am on the second step. No one in the bus gives me dirty looks. Once I was even offered a place meant for disabled folks which I politely refused, and ended traveling the whole way, standing, only to see a electronically-super-phone-enabled young chap grab the place and spend the entire trip talking to someone who should have known better.
Rickshawallahs, artfully dodge the famous Mumbai potholes when I travel with them. "Race" type driving is far from their mind. Occasionally, we dip, as we are unsuccessful is avoiding potholes, and the fellow actually looks in his rear view mirror to see if my head is still vertical. These guys are habituated to saying, that , they don't have change, when you pay them . Somehow my collar makes them sin less. I always get the change. I am thinking of later on using the collar as a useful accessory , like my traffic whistle.
But people struggling to make a comment, on seeing me with a collar, amuse me no end. Though why they feel it is necessary to do so has always puzzled me.
The first type is always coming walking down the opposite side. A sudden stop. "What happened?". And they love to delve into the details. Spondylosis ? Cervical vertebrae? C3-C4 ? S1? And there ensue several minutes of anatomical discussions, knowing nods on the mention of certain doctors, in the midst of 2 and 4 wheelers whizzing past you, honking, and giving you looks. And an expression of "serves her right" on hearing about an MRI.
The second always happens unexpectedly. You are at your doctor's , sitting in line to pick up a prescription. Someone who barely acknowledged your existence over the years, for reasons of hierarchy, passes by, as he exits the consulting room. Stops in his tracks.
"What on earth happened ? Why are you wearing this thing ?"
(I resist the urge to say I got it in a buy-one-get-one-free-deal....)
"Oh ! This. Just my latest neck jewellery ! :-) " I say, and watch the fun. Being non-hierarchical has freed his sense of humor. The unexpected answer makes him guffaw. And earns him a stiff look from the nurse in the reception. She looks at me, I give her a pained look. And the fun continues.
The best part is when I am out shopping for groceries, veggies and fruits. Cars, parking lots and carts are not part of my world. Tote bags, crowds, vegetable and fruit stalls run by my friends (who have been blogged about) are my scene.
Guys who quickly add a couple of rupees to the unit price on seeing customers with air conditioned cars, lose their addition capabilities when faced with an old customer who , say, cant move the neck to the right easily because of this terrible collar. (Without the collar , I could probably even swim freestyle today, but that's for later). For a person who normally abhors pitiful looks, it is very easy to wear a collar and look troubled if it means the guy is going to quote a lesser rate. He asks his assistant to hold my bag as it is filled, and takes care to see that he doesn't make a heavy single bag. Several light bags are easier to handle.
I have run into many friends who worry about my lack of fashion sense while on these collars. The Mumbai summer is a year long affair, and about ten steps into the heat, and you literally start getting hot under the collar. You sweat. It cools a bit. Then heats up again. And so I have a cool colorful cotton handkerchief lining the inside of this collar. Many times, it is not completely hidden within the collar, and the emerging "gathers" above and below the actual collar, often grate on the eyes of the fashion conscious. Occasionally makes me look like a goon. But I prefer to think of it as old Victorian fashion, making a new comeback in the vegetable market.
But the nicest thing was when I visited Rasikbhai's shop to pay some routine grocery bills.
I was offered a seat, a nice glass of cool water. The delivery boy who attend to our house, hovered solicitously nearby. I wrote out my cheque, Rasikbhai and I discussed our families, children, how prices of everything are going up, some new things that have come into the market, and of course , my collar. I was once in an accident in front of his shop, 20 years ago. So he is aware that reasons for the collar could be unusual and or exciting. I am sorry to disappoint him.
I rose to leave.
"Please. Don't carry all that stuff. "
I looked up. A great weight off my shoulders , so to speak.
"Why don't you leave the bags here. When my boy goes on his evening rounds, he will drop them off at your place. This collar must be uncomfortable. Not to worry. Anytime you come to the market, leave your bags here and I will deliver. "
Yes, the collar brings out the best in people.
I am just wondering if Rasikbhai will ever stand for an election.
With or without Collar........
He will have my vote. Jai Ho !