Friday, March 06, 2009

Unknown Collar Benefits

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 !


  1. Haha, wonderful narration! I'm sure it makes you look quite distinguished :) Watch out though, you might just get attached to it by the time they have to remove it ;)

    Hope you get out of the darned thing soon. Enjoyed the post :)


  2. Lovely as usual !

    The blue collar and white collar distinct pervades the corporate world.

    With the flat organisation structures things have become very democratically distributed !!

    On another note, may the Rasikabhai tribe increase !!

  3. LOL!!You have such a bright and cheerful way of looking at things!Your humor is amazing :D


  4. Lols...beautiful and lovely as usual :). Enjoy the attention till u rejuvinate perfectly ! :) take care

  5. I like your picture in the red than in the white.:))

    "The other kinds of collars have to do with politicians and goons. I sometimes wonder why I mention them separately". .... Hee hee

  6. Hah! You phony!!!
    Seriously though, I know that collar must be really uncomfortable... my dad had one on for a year and yes, it did sweat a lot and itch too!
    Take care!

  7. Litterateuse Thank you. And yes, there is an appreciable change in peoples' attitude towards you in places like banks etc.

    Kavi Thank you. With the flat organization structure , I dont know about democracy, but you could be talking about the actual construction of the collar as well ....

    Chaitra, Maggi Thank you. I think I have to wear it for like 2-3 weeks, but it is easily removable, so it is OK.

    Vinita The pictures in the blog do not have resemblance , whatsoever, by any stretch of imagination, to me..... and are only for decorative purposes.....

    Roshni I need to wear it only for 2-3 weeks, it seems , after which there is some other physiotherapy scheduled. But yes, I have the utmost regard for anyone who wore this for a year and tolerated all that sweating and itching, not to mention , having to turn at the waist, where turning a neck would have sufficed. you a foretaste of what old age will be like....(I just got an idea for another post :-))

  8. I'm so sorry about how uncomfortable the collar must be, but... while you have to wear it ~ get all the things done that others might normally add additional cost to and use this time to get the proper charge and additional assistance! At least people are willing to show kindness when seeing it, but it's a shame that it takes a collar to do so!

  9. Aleta Actually, in the smaller markets where I go, bargaining is the done thing. They always quote a higher price, and one bargains. And So the collar sort of makes things easier for me, psychologically.

    But there isnt any urgency about getting work done before the collar is removed. I have a decent reputation for bargaining in the local market :-)

    (The supermarket generation gets all embarrased doing that. )

  10. Great post as always and always a giggle or two. Ugich, take care of yourself! The collar doesn't look comfortable, but hey! it's improved your bus travel!

  11. The side effects of the collar (autodriver, Rasikbhai et al) seems to make the heat and discomfort almost worth it, then? But good you are having it now, rather than in May, no? Well, I'll no more hit below the, er, collar, and instead, express my sincere wish that you get better soon (and replace the collar with gold chains, a la Bappi Lahiri in the first photo).

  12. Sylvia K That collar is totally uncomfortable. I dont wish this on anyone. But gives you an interesting insight into human nature.

    Sucharita The thought of the Bappi Lahiri chains has me cowering behind the soft collar once again, summer or no summer. I had such a big choice while looking for pictures of netas etc. But I thought these guys were very photogenic.....:-)

  13. i m a fan of your blogs and i love reading it, but even i thought when i started reading bout the collars... perhaps this is stretching it a bit too far...

    but by joe or should i say by jai ho what a lovely piece !!!

    if rasik bhai stands tell me !!

    I ll get myself transferred to mumbai !!

  14. Hitch Writer Thank you.

    And no - I dont think the collars can stretch....:-) too far, that is ...

    But Yes, Rasikbhai now has 2 guaranteed votes.

  15. Great humour and you can keep your collar up.

  16. Even if the benefits don't outweigh the discomfort, you might keep it around for outside travel. Those who are only considerate if they think you have a physical problem would never know that you take it off at home. ;-).

    As to turning your head after you reach my age, I am afraid you have hit the nail on the head. I am unable to turn my head far enough now to see what's behind me. Maybe the grim reaper is creeping up.

  17. nsiyer Thank you. And yes, this collar also has a permanent built-in-stand-up quality....

    darlene Its such a closed community here on campus , Darlene, I think most people will catch on to the Collar Capers sooner or later, if I continue to use them as an accessory. I guess I will just enjoy as long as I can .........

  18. Very interesting and amusing, too. Isn't it amazing that you were treated differently with the collar. We should all treat everyone like you were treated with the collar whether they have a collar or not.