Starting Over

Discovering myself, my family and friends in a foreign land, second time around


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I prefer vision

woman-531212_640I am at an age where I have to admit that sometimes reading fine print becomes difficult. Let me be honest, reading regular print is a challenge these days. When presented with a large print edition of a book, I happily take that one. After all, for a voracious book worm like me, the ultimate punishment is to stay away from my beloved books

Call it vanity, arrogance or plain stupidity but I am reluctant to get reading glasses. I still read a lot more than most people I know but I am reading less than what I used to. Some days are better than others and so I carry on, refusing to bite the bullet and buy those dreaded glasses that would alleviate my discomfort.  It is possible that there will be a day when I have to capitulate but I would like to delay it as long as I can. I have managed for the last three years thanks to daily eye exercises that are supposed to strengthen the eye muscles and reverse the aging process. Doing this makes me feel a little bit in control, fully aware that nature marches in only one direction – forward.

Growing older has its rewards. Perhaps with failing eyesight, there is compensation in the form of vision. We often use the words interchangeably, equating the action of a sense organ to the ability to look deeper, further into an unknown future, seeing it happen before others can. Is it age that makes this possible? Or experience? Or self-knowledge which then translates into wisdom? Vision is not the power to predict the future but sensing of what is ahead in the maze of life without having a map. It is an internal compass that guides but does not give a recipe. Vision is what builds value in the long term regardless of losses that may happen in the interim. Vision does not necessarily come with age, some are blessed at a young age. As I lament the decline of my eyesight, I yearn for vision. If the natural consequence of growing older is acquisition of vision, I happily accept the terms of aging.

In the words of Helen Keller “It is a terrible thing to see but have no vision.”

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Stepping into fashion

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“The ugly shoe is in” stated the article in the newspaper this morning. A picture of sensible Prada sandals accompanied the text. Hallelujah!!

The impossible has happened. Something I have been wearing happily and advocating zealously is finally in fashion!

Comfort above couture has always been my mantra; one that I have held on to steadfastly since I was a teenager and continue to do so now as a mom to a teenager. In my twenties when I had a body that (in retrospect) was worth showing off, I covered up in turtlenecks and sweaters in the Washington DC winters. By the time I moved to sunny California, I was pregnant and have sported the baby bump remnant ever since. I wore cool cottons in the dry heat of Hyderabad when I moved back to India and now in sultry Singapore, I find myself wondering about appropriate attire.

I know I am not alone, but I surely belong among the world’s minority of women who have access to information about fashion but choose to completely ignore trends, top buys and must-haves that are routinely posted online. I stay away from skinny pants, stilettos and short shorts. The language of fashion is as foreign to me as … Greek.

In Singapore the women are petite, the colors bright and dresses skimpy. Business attired women ride the metro alongside aunties in saris, young girls with sequined hijabs covering their head and the elderly in loose clothes. The buses are freezing death traps at night when the riders are few but being outdoors during the day is like stepping into a brilliantly lit oven. I am home most days, trying not to turn the air-conditioner on, in a futile bid to be kind to the environment and the electricity bill.

The hot, dry spell of the last few weeks sent me to the famous Orchard Road shopping district yesterday, to find suitable clothes to survive in Singapore. HH insisted and a girlfriend agreed to “update my look” – whatever that meant. I spent a few hours in air-conditioned comfort in spacious stores with attentive salespeople. As I made my way through Robinsons and Takashimaya, I was fascinated by the $500 umbrellas, blinded by diamond studded clutches and amazed by lingerie whose price per square inch would rival New York city apartments on a price per square foot. I ruffled through the racks at H&M and Mango and quickly exited Forever 2l, before they spotted me as being well over the age of their target customer segment.

I don’t know whether it was the price or the merchandise but I came home with a solitary black sweater, a staple addition to any wardrobe without looking any different for the effort. In some ways I am more confused now than when I launched the campaign for a new look (even a store named New Look was of no help). However, I feel no different than on my previous attempts to change my way of dressing. The rub between what people think I should wear and what I feel comfortable in has always been irritating if not downright uncomfortable. Add to that the gentle messages by mother nature as you age. I can choose to ignore the hints and fall prey to those who say, “Come on, with your figure you can carry off this outfit”. I have bought clothes ten years ago that still fit me but do not befit me. And now I don’t want to accumulate stuff that doesn’t feel right.

I would rather be comfy than cool. I like natural fabrics and earth colors. I go for no-frills, clean linear cuts. I feel calm in cottons and prefer a dressed-down look that also covers me up. I need clothes that radiate the inner serenity I am trying to cultivate, not attire that grates. Added to all these requirements is my conservatively brought up in India frugal mentality that requires shirts to have sleeves, pants to be loose and skirts to be long. No wonder I have a hard time finding clothes that fit the bill (pun intended).

When it comes to shoes, practical and versatile are my favorite adjectives to describe the footwear that I own. The national dress code in Singapore considers flip flops acceptable in most places. As a family we own multiple pairs of flip flops but I favor my good old adidas sandals. My toes love the ventilation and the rest of my foot is grateful for the comfort. My daughters think they are hideous. I seldom shop in fancy shoe stores, just as I seldom check out the latest gadget or gizmo. If I have a laptop and a phone that works, I am a happy camper. I don’t need to sport the newest version. Same holds for clothes and shoes. If my answer to the question of whether I am comfortable using/wearing these shoes/clothes is yes, I am pleased. And when sandals like the ones I normally wear make it to the top of the fashion news, I am astonished. Its high time the world came around to my way of thinking.

Even when the trend moves on to something else as it inevitably will, you can count on one thing. I will still be wearing my ugly sandals, perhaps Prada.