Playing Dress Up: Sari I’m not sorry


I work in an office with 3 other women. Every morning they come in wearing the most beautiful kurtis and saris and we all oooh and ahhh accordingly. I have taken to calling it the “morning runway.” I, of course, mostly end up looking like a hobo. One of the administrative assistants, Madhu-ji (ji is a term of respect), was reImagetiring after more than 20 years of service. A retirement party was held in the office followed by a party near her home. One of my other coworkers brought in a sari for me to wear and they all dressed me up like Barbie with a matching eyeliner and bindi (dot between the eyes that historically meant that you were married but is currently a fashion statement also embraced by younger, unmarried Indian women). Let me tell you, a sari is a difficult thing to wear- it consists of a very short sleeved blouse and then a single piece of fabric wrapped, pleated and pinned in a regionally specific manner.

I, of course, loved it. In a ground-breaking first, I was told that people were talking about how “elegantly” I carried the sari (!) especially combined with holding my coworker’s adorable 6 month old. I perhaps broke that spell when I hiked up the sari to try to go down the stairs- a move that earned me a look of shock “no NO! Don’t do that!” You would have thought that I had try to disrobe completely. In fact, this particular misdeed was recounted to others who laughed at how utterly gauche this was. Quelle horreur!

The evening’s retirement party was also great. Half the fun was getting therae- I got to hold the baby the entire car ride (car seats aren’t a thing here as far as I an tell). When we finally arrived at the Punjabi Association after an hour of traffic there were delicious trays of food, fabulous Bollywood music and I managed to keep the baby in my arms the whole time. We even hit the dance floor together. I think that managing a sari, a baby and Indian dance moves is amongst my most coordinated moments (which are few and far between).


Weekend in Gujarat

I spent the weekend in Vadodara- which is in a state called Gujarat (southwest of New Delhi). I came to stay with Dr. Verma- an esteemed Indian dermatologist who has many connections to Penn. He and his amazing family were so welcoming, kind and  accommodating. From street food to fine cuisine- they fed me so much Gujarati food that a) I’m still full and b) I should get checked for pre-diabetes (Guarati food is known for being sweet). They also showed me around, allowed me to attend dermatology clinic and even clothed me in my first sari!

While at dermatology clinic, Dr. Verma told me that there is a severe shortage of dermatology coverage in India, especially for rural areas. One reason for this coverage gap is that most dermatologists (and other speciality docs) are in cash only private practice. Villagers simply cannot afford it. I also learned that a common practice model is having purely walk-in clinics- which means that patients don’t have set appointments. When I asked him why he did this, he replied that his patients rarely show up on time for appointments- a phenomenon he deemed “Indian Standard Time”

Below are some pictures from my visit to this beautiful city.