Creatures of comfort

Creatures of comfort

There's nothing like an old tattered shirt or a dhoti to feel like a snug bug in a rug.

Comfort is everything

A selection of brand new outfits may be available in your dresser, and yet, when you want to relax at home, nothing gives greater comfort than well-worn and sometimes tattered dresses, be it an old dhoti, a much-worn pyjama, shorts, a soft cotton saree or a salwar.

They may be crumpled and faded due to frequent washing; they may badly require a touch of the hot iron, but no, they will not get any. They will be preferred, to wear and wallow on the sofa, watch TV, browse through a Kindle, or chitchat with the spouse, nibbling crisps or salted ground nuts, when it is raining. One is assured of feeling snug like the proverbial bug in a rug.

My son, when he was a kid, would bring the roof down, if his favourite brown trousers was not always available to wear. He would have worn it for three days running and peace would be restored only after he puts it on. My daughter, though elder and more sophisticated than her brother, would insist on wearing a red frock, never mind if it looked like a dishcloth.

So many times, women dressed in their best to attend a function would vanish into the bedroom to change over to the well-worn old clothes, prior to appearing before the rest of the family assembled in the living room. My uncle, who had an opinion on all matters, would say, “this trait is understandable. The Britishers get dressed up for dinner, whereas we Indians, especially men who go out wearing formals, on reaching home, ‘undress’ for dinner — that is, they get out of the pant/shirt/tie ensemble and get into a comfortable dhoti, pyjama and vest, before sitting down for the meal.”

The preference for the old shirt is understandable. It is a task to unpack a ready-to-wear new shirt. One has to ease it out of the cellophane pack, remove the tucked in collar supports, plastic clips, dozens of safety pins, as if the shirt had been subjected to a bout of acupuncture. Then comes the dislodging of the buttons from collar up to tail down, reluctant to escape from their moorings. The brand new look may be a treat for the eyes of the beholder, but for the one who wears it, it is mostly a source of discomfort.

In the olden days, the eldest son of the family had the honour of wearing new shirts and trousers. These were passed on to younger brothers, when the eldest grew out of them. Though the younger ones griped about getting the hand-me-downs, on the flip side, they got into them without any discomfort. The eldest son, in addition to bearing the brunt of, well, being the eldest, had to also undergo the task of getting used to new clothes, its luck or ill luck, like the opening batsman facing the seam bowlers first when the ball is new and shiny.