The Age Issue


The Age Issue

New Delhi : Two women boarded a train from Ahmedabad to Gandhidham in Kutch. Both were in the grips of a temporary frenzy. Their confirmed reservation slips had no seat numbers. One, let’s call her Lady X, wore a well-tailored block printed salwar kurta (without dupatta) with trendy open sandals. She was slim, smart and her body language denoted confidence and concern about her looks.

The other, Lady Z, was dressed in an ill-fitting pair of jeans with a frumpy top and slippers worn in a slanted way, her heel slipping out out of them inelegantly. She had a middle-aged gait. Both seemed to be in their late thirties / early forties.

Well, that’s my lame guess of course because L’Oreal hair colour and Neighbourhood gyms work on a conspiracy theory and have turned many of us into failed Madonnas.

An embarassing exchange ensued when a Gujarati couple boarded the same coach. They looked cheerful, chatty, neither had a paunch and had a small child (thirty-ish?). Addressing the lady in salwar kameez, the man muttered, “Aunty you sit here, let me ask the ticket collector”. Lady X glared at him. “Why do you call me aunty? How old is your own child, you yourself are an uncle,” she retorted, clearly perturbed.

The man managed a bashful half smile and turned to the other lady, but only to make an equal and opposite mistake. “Didi, let me help you with your seat,” he said to the one in jeans. Lady Z smiled a wide smile. Mistaken age guess? Well, culturally, wearing jeans in Gujarat is considered “forward”; and like in most traditional communities, it also denotes youth or at least some shade of it. Whereas the Punjabi (a phrase commonly used for the salwar kameez ) is for certified Aunties, albeit progressive ones.

The truly traditional must only wear a sari, train or tractor. Lady X was unquestionably the didi but her salwar gave her an aunty image. Lady Z, who was a typical aunty given fashion’s Its Not What You Wear But How You Wear It Theory was given an age discount due to perception. The couple read age through clothes. Right or wrong? Tell me what you think.