You know she is fashionable when you see her matching the pink blouse with the same shade of lipstick (R 25), and her maroon glass bangles (R 100) resembling the spiral designs on her sari (R 400).
She also has a tattoo, a la Saif Ali Khan, but the only difference is that, the name inked is not her husband Nandu, but her brother’s. She also has a small bindi (R 20 for a packet of 10) on her forehead and wears her sindoor in the ‘K serial’ way — a thick line on the forehead that stops short of her parting.
Rati, a 20-something, is one of the 1,50,000 migrant labourers in the Capital, working on construction projects that are expected to spruce up the city for the Commonwealth Games.
We met Rati on Sardar Patel Marg, a few metres away from a 5-star hotel. She starts working at 8 in the morning. A mere 20 minutes is what it takes for this pretty woman to dress up for the day. This, she manages, apart from cooking meals and taking care of her baby.
We asked Rati about her fashion sense. She blushed deeply at this, and pulled her ghoonghat (veil) before coyly telling us, “Saare rang ki lipstick hai... hari, laal, bengani (I have lipsticks of all shades; from green to purple).” Her mantra: “Jis rang ki sari, uss rang ki lipstick, nahi to jis rang ka blouse, usi rang ki... (Your lipstick must be of the same shade as your saris).”
This woman from Uttar Pradesh does not shop in Delhi. She says the city is too expensive for her. She bought every make-up item from her village near Jhansi. Her husband says, “Yahan char-paanch hazaar rupaye toh chahiye (You need R 4,000-5,000 every month to survive in Delhi).” The couple are paid R 150 daily for their work.
Admiring Rati’s working dress style, designer Anjana Bhargav says, “The desire to look well-dressed is an intrinsic part of any woman. Often, we take inspirations from our heritage. Tattoos, for instance, were an intrinsic part of tradition in our villages.”