Men’s kurtas are among the most comfortable articles of clothing in the entire world. Chai knows this, she has a kurta that belonged to her grandfather. Kurtas are soft and baggy, and when they get old they only get softer and baggier. Kurtas are the ideal hot-weather clothes for me. My father agrees, but he doesn’t seem to appreciate it, especially since the kurtas I’m wearing are his.
You all know the shirts I’m talking about, sometime in the sixties (or maybe the 1860’s) the uniform of the Pakistani male was the white kurta-pajama, the kurta being the loose, white cotton tunic and the pajama being the bunchy, soft pants that fit your legs like corrugated stove pipes.
It’s been a long time since kurta-pajama was really in, and at some point between the sixties and this century all of my father’s pajamas were lost and only three or four of the kurtas remain. They’ve been living in my wardrobe for years, but it’s still a shock to my father every time.
“Beta, you’re wearing my shirt!” my father exclaims, looking confused. “Why are you wearing my shirt?”
“Because it’s comfortable abbu,” I plead, holding the shirt out for him to feel the fine white cotton, washed hundreds of times into softness.
“I know it’s comfortable, it’s my shirt.”
Here my father shakes his head and wanders off, muttering about my strange fashion sense. I steal his regular qameezes too, and that irritates him sometimes. But I only borrow the qameezes, not the pants, and so that means he’ll sometimes have three or four shalwars hanging in the closet without their matching shirts. This evening my father came home to see me wearing one of his old white kurtas and arched an eyebrow.
“You’re wearing my shirt again Beta.”
“Yes daddy, I know.”
A few seconds of silence pass. He gives an exasperated sigh. I wait for him to tell me that he can never find matching clothes any more. I wait for him to remind me that when you wash the shirt more often than the pants, they end up being two different colors after a while. I wait for him to tell me to hang the shirt back up.
“Could you at least wear the matching pants?”