Welcome, world, to the new year 2017. In honor of this changing of the calendar, I decided to take on some good old Kaskikot cleaning-out-of-old-clothes-from-the-house. Now in order for you to fully appreciate what this means in context, you must understand a few key points.
First, the clothes in question have been in rotation for anywhere from 2 to 14 years, and for the most part, they are only worn when I’m in Nepal. Second, these garments are mainly used for activities such as chopping wood and hauling water and painting murals, and they are washed on rocks. Third, all of the family clothes are stuffed in to one large dresser with drawers that have been labeled with permanent marker by the kids (“Lora and Bishnu, Ama, Malika and Prem, Aidan and Pascl”) and the dresser is always so full you almost can’t open it, or close it, which is why every time I get the Lora and Bishnu drawer open and then shove it almost shut, Aamaa yelps out from across the room and chides me for leaving one inch of air space that will look irresistible to a mouse seeking fluffy shelter from life.
Next you must understand that nobody throws anything away, ever, under any circumstances, because it was once useful, might again be useful, is nicely made, contains a wrapper or other information that might be needed for future reference, or just because I don’t know let’s just keep it here wedged between the roof beams because we have roof beams.
And finally, since I am away for 5 to 10 months at a time, partway through, Aamaa religiously takes out the nicely stacked and folded system I’ve left behind to air out everyone’s clothes in the sun. They are then returned to their airless purgatory in maximum disarray.
It is also notable that at any given time, most people in the household cannot locate the particular piece of clothing they wish to wear. I spend most of my time at home either trying to open the Lora and Bishnu drawer, trying to close the drawer, or looking under piles for something while Aamaa cries out, “No matter how big the house gets, it just fills up with things and then we can’t find anything!” FYI this is a two-room mud plaster house with a kitchen and attic, which was once expanded from a one-room mud plaster house with a kitchen and attic, but that’s the EXACT SAME THING my mom says about our large suburban abode in Bethesda. So you can put that last point in to your “Deep thoughts on human life” file and stick it between the roof beams for future reference.
In any case, on Dec. 31, 2016, I made a decision, people. Grandma was sunning in the yard while Aamaa tended to the buffalo, Govinda’s kids were over, an attempt to fold and restore clothes to the Lora drawer with Sulochana’s help was going nowhere, and in a fit of courage I committed to assigning a pile of my best clothes to mattress material. (I mean it, if you think anything ever gets thrown out, let’s talk about used-up pens and “good” empty cardboard boxes before we start wasting perfectly good 14 year old clothes.) I handed my camera over to Sudir, and he and Sulo stationed themselves to document these items for posterity.
Now then, with no further ado, I present to you the parade of Useful and Sentimental Clothes.
Item 1: The Mural Surulwar
The very first time I came to Kaskikot, all the way back in October 2002, the volunteer agency took me to a tailor and I had two outfits sewn. I wore them constantly during my first two years, including through the painting of two murals at Sada Shiva Primary. One top frayed out of existence a few years ago, but these two outfits are mostly still in circulation for both sentimental and practical reasons: they became my go-to outfits for mural painting. This pair of pants, however, is difficult to wear in pretty much all circumstances. Bye bye special beige painting surulwar. We’ve walked so many places together and you’ve had so many kids I love on your lap.
Item 2: The Elastic Bathing Lungi
Fortunately I don’t have a “before” photo of the bathing lungi. But it too is a lifer: it has been bathed in for 14 years. In fact, I think I inherited it from another volunteer that was leaving when I arrived in 2002. Suffice to say that this little number is no longer appropriate for bathing, or really for anything except becoming a mattress cover.
Item 3: The Red Kurta I Stole From Bishnu
Round about my third visit, I started to wise up a little on style. Anecdotal evidence suggests that when Nepali tailors sew outfits for white people, they just go huge and hope for the best. We look like Yetis, but at least we can get in to these outfits. As I became more interested in a fashion choice that wasn’t a mumu, Bishnu’s loosest outfits were large enough for me to get in to as long as I didn’t breathe too much. This red top was my favorite and eventually I had it let out a little around the lungs. When I wore it with some red pants I found, I felt like a princess, but then someone made the red pants in to a mattress, so I reverted to wearing it with the beige Mural Surulwar. It then became covered in paint, and torn, but it’s had a great life on multiple Spero-Subedi women.
Item 4: The Put In The Museum Pants
I got these jeans for $10 at a discount mall in college, and they were my Nepal jeans for about 10 years. They got patched in the crotch, the butt, around the ankles and in various locations where they caught on things here and there. I took a lot of crap for wearing these pants, which Prem had coined the “Put In The Museum Pants” for quite a few years before I stopped wearing them. I discovered them at the bottom of the Lora and Bishnu drawer, and I’m glad nobody throws things out here, because it would be terrible to think of these trusty pants in a ditch somewhere. Unfortunately they do not fully qualify as pants any more at this point; they evolved closer to the mattress stage while still on me. Since I’ve clearly enjoyed sitting on them quite a bit, I’m glad someone will have a nice night’s rest on them…like a museum, but lying down.
They will be next to this AAU Taekwondo Nationals t-shirt that I got in 2008; it had a rougher life once it moved continents.
Item 5: This one’s not my fault.
This is a kurta surulwar that belonged to Bishnu about 10 million years ago. I was able to convince Aamaa that nobody is going to wear it again ever for the entire future of the planet until the sun explodes. I tried to lower my arms for these photos but to no avail because the outfit was sewn with inexplicably tiny sleeves and indefensibly large and poofy pants for someone 1/2 my size. Thank you for just being you, outfit that makes no sense. You inspire us all.
Item 6: The One I Couldn’t Bear to Actually Give Up
This is the other kurta surulwaar I had sewn for my first ever visit to Kaskikot. I wore it constantly and the material appears to be more durable than bulletproof kevlar. I have photos of myself carrying grass in this purple kurta, teaching in this purple kurta, holding a cat in this purple kurta, going to a dental clinic in this kurta, and giving Mom and Aamaa a joint foot massage while wearing this purple kurta when my parents first visited 2003. Purple became my symbolic color, and often when I receive gifts in Kaskikot they are purple if they are not edible. The kurta, as you can plainly see, evolved in to my primary mural painting smock, and hasn’t been used in quite a while. But I still wear the dark purple pants around the house even though the crotch is ripped (YES, I have leggings inside, jeez) because the thick purple material is still warm and soft and because the Yeti sizing is perfect for lounging. I decided it was ok to hang on to these much-travelled and much-loved pieces of history a bit longer. Maybe my great-grandkids will get a kick out of this getup.
So after we had finished modeling the upcoming mattress, we shut the dresser drawer, Sulo did my hair with a complicated formula of braids and safety pins, and we had a dance party with Grandma.
Happy New Year!
No wait…one more for the road.
Cause I’m keeping the purple one.
Tihar, Festival of Lights, 2003