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Watch your chappals

What makes Congress leader Mohsina Kidwai cry? The thought of her beautiful outfits, which she never got around to wearing after she joined politics, writes Kumkum Chadha.

india Updated: Jan 04, 2007 23:49 IST

What makes Congress leader Mohsina Kidwai cry? The thought of her beautiful outfits, which she never got around to wearing after she joined politics. For years, they lay in her wardrobe. And every evening, she would bring them out and moan. There was the pink gharara with matching bangles, which she loved; the green one with long earrings to go with it was her favourite; and, of course, the shimmering blue, which made heads turn.

At times, she would even sleep with them, the smooth satin caressing her skin. Politics, to which she was a reluctant entrant, meant only khadi: colourless, drab and thick. It was only after several years, when she was accepted as a politician in her own right, that she “dared” to get her khadis embroidered: “I got smarter by the day. I started wearing fine khadi and replaced the drab border with flowers strewn all over.” She sneaked in a tailor into the house: “Tailors,” reveals Mohsina, “were taboo. But I, against all norms, went ahead and got blouses stitched.” The ghararas, of course, never left the cupboard till they formed part of her daughter’s trousseau.

It is ironic that for her own wedding, neither her trousseau nor her wedding dress was ready. In fact, throughout the ceremony, she was very angry: red in the face as it were. The reason: she did not even know till two hours earlier that she was to be married. When she was asked to apply mehndi on her hands, she thought there was a wedding in the house. “It happened just like that. I was basking in the sun with a novel when my father walked up to me and said: “Come on, get ready.

You are getting married.” The saving grace was she was marrying her first cousin who was “family” and not a “stranger from back and beyond”. Ask her the advantages of an “instant marriage” and she will tell you that it means lots and lots of gifts and clothes because there is an unending stream of visitors: “No invitations means everyone who hears of the marriage drops in to bless you and brings something.”

Nicknamed Kullu Bullu, Mohsina was the favourite of the eight children. She was, her father Qutubuddin Ahmed believed, a lucky mascot because the day she was born, when his client gave him an advance of Rs 500. “He was an ‘allahawala’ (God’s own). He gave up legal practice because it was nothing but lies, lies and more lies,” Mohsina says. At 75 years, Mohsina’s verdict on whether one is well-bred or not depends on the way they walk — the class teacher would spank students if they dragged their feet.

Email Kumkum Chadha: kumkum@hindustantimes.com