Monday, April 17, 2017

N is for Naada and Nirona #atozchallenge

I was all set to do a photo essay on Nirona village in Kutchch when a comment I heard this weekend made my brain cells go PING! and I decided to go down this route instead.

Naa-da (Punjabi) or Naa-la (Hindi) is the drawstring that one uses to keep the pajamas from falling.

But before we get into the seams to find our way out of the casing, let me explain a little about Indian clothing. 

When Max, the doctor, (played by Patrick Swayze in the movie) is attracted to the idea that Indian women don't obsess about their waist sizes like the western ones he'd come across in his fictional life as a character in the book, City of Joy (by Dominique Lapierre), I, the reader of the book, smirk. I smirk because Max is not acquainted with the fact that Indian clothing (to cover the bottom half) almost always comes with an adjustable waist band.

Here in the world of  salwars, pyjamas, churidaars and petticoats, there's never any need to fit into a size 2 or 8 or 12. You can grow as big as the proverbial piece of string or in our case, the naada. What Max doesn't realise is that when he was being set as a character in the novel in the 70s India, a typical Indian woman was making her trip to her tailor, who was measuring her waist and cutting the cloth she'd brought with her to fit her waist (whatever her circumference) and not the other way round.

Teaching your kids to tie the naada in India is the western equivalent of teaching them how to tie their shoe laces. Only difference is, while a shoddily tied naada can cause you immense embarrassment, a sloppy job with shoe laces can trip you up and cause a different kind of pain.

Once you've mastered the art of tying your pajame ka naada  (drawstrings), you can go and get married. I mean you are ready to embark upon your life's path as dreamed up by your parents and as depicted in stereotypical western dramas (dare I say, not without reason): A+ school student, engineer or doctor, holder of a safe and well paid job, married with children, etc.

But, wait. Hang on a tic. It's not the tying of the naada that's an issue, it's the ruddy untying of it that leaves emotional scars so deep, one seeks counselling even when one doesn't believe it works. One is Indian, you see.

In the 70's and the 80's, as a wee one, you had the right to shake your mum or wake your sister to help you to untie the naada in the middle of night when you needed to wee and your fumbling fingers refused to co-operate. It was acceptable. Of course, the elastic band had been invented by then but there were times when you ended up wearing that one pj which hadn't been elasticated yet.

It's when you're all grown up and dressed up in the 90s and you're going out for a night of merriment, dressed in your best salwaar kameez, kurta pajama or saree that comic and life shattering experiences abound.

Imagine an evening of dance, music, good food and wine. Everyone's happy. You decide to go to powder your nose. The ladies' loo is unusually queue free. So you decide to pee too. Why miss a chance like this? You feel so good about your terrific timing and presence of mind. Now you can go on for another couple of hours and not stand in a queue. Happy with this thought,  you yank the naada to undo the knot. It seems stuck. Did I tie a double knot? You can't remember. But you try again and this time you tease the knot to ease it up a bit. The cotton threads that make the naada soft and washable decide to behave like steal wire today. You yank a little, tease a little, then yank a little more. You keep your cool. It's a naada, after all. You've done this in your sleep. It'll yield. It has to. You didn't even need to pee. But now the bladder has sensed that you're in a loo. So he gets all excited and decides he needs a release. The brain is trying to cope with two conflicting signal: bladder vs fingers. Who will win? You breathe in and tell your adrenaline to shush and just let the fingers do their thing. You can hear a few voices outside the door now. People are starting to shuffle close to the cubicle. Then a knock. Yes, you tell them, it's occupied.

That knock tips the scales and the adrenaline takes over completely. Fingers get sweaty and bladder is blasting to explode. No! You get the tweezers out (the tiny ones you always carry with you in your bag for the pesky chin hair that seem to show up only on your nights out and only after you've hugged and air-kissed all your friends at close quarters). Fumble. Fumble. Plop. The tweezers look up at you from their watery grave and the sight of water makes the bladder weak at his knees.

You know you've lost your battle and any street credit you may have picked up that evening when you feel the first wet drop.

You unlock the cubicle door and holler, does anyone have scissors? My naada is stuck.

Universal sisterhood rises to the challenge. You are saved just in time. You tinkle like you've never tinkled before and see the Divine right in front of you. That feeling! That release!

You step out, wash your hands, avoid eye contact, slink out without saying goodbye to your friends. And promise yourself to never, ever, go close to a naada. It's elastic from now on or hooks or buttons or zips...not zips, you tell yourself. Remember that scene in that film? But that was a man, you justify and feel a smile spreading inside of you. Safe in the comfort of your home and pull up pants, you can see the funny side of the evening.

Wardrobe malfunction stories are a dime a dozen when it comes to naada tying, untying, breaking in half while tying , or old naadas giving up their ghost while you're in the middle of a busy bazaar bargaining.

Have clothes ever put you in a pickle? Do share (if you can or would like to).
And here are nine (clever, right?) pictures of Nirona village in Kutchh to give you a little flavour.
For more details about this village of artisans, check out NIRONA

 Wooden utensils and toys made by hand and coloured with natural pigment and mustard oil.
Ordinary moments of ordinary days 
is all that my heart desires.

Leaving you with a few lines from The Sage's Tao Te Ching
William Martin
Every Ordinary Moment
Our thoughts are becoming clearer,
and our needs are becoming more simple.
Enough to eat,
a comfortable bed,
and the glow of friendship
suffice to delight us.


  1. I've never had to cut myself out of my clothes, but I have had to sew myself back into my bra during the middle of the workday.
    While wearing it...
    and hiding in the bathroom cubicle.

    1. Wow! That would require dexterity and sewing skills:)

  2. I've never had to use scissors to cut, but I have had a furious fight with a drawstring that wouldn't undo! N is for Nuggets and News as you Build a Better Blog. #AtoZchallenge.

    1. Yes, I can understand your pain Shirley:)

  3. Your pictures are wonderful, and your story even better!

    Phillip | N is for Naked Don’t be alarmed – or disappointed – there is no nudity in today’s post.

  4. There have been a couple of occasions where you only notice the zipper is not closed after you've spent the evening out. It's not fun to recall!

  5. Hilarious wardrobe malfunction story! Occasionally zippers have the piece you pull on to unzip get stuck in the down position...that leads to walking around open!
    Perspectives at Life & Faith in Caneyhead

  6. Your writing is musical, and your photography sings love and humanity. I am happy we have found each other.

    1. Awww...thank you Sue. Reading your comment with so much gratitude and a big smile in my heart.

  7. Aahhh good old days of a kid the fear of the knot getting undone in the middle of school day! I did have my bra strap break in the middle of tennis game....had to forfeit the game😳


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