Shaji and Dalila, the husband and wife team who have so ably managed my house for over four years,
kindly gave me a shirt for Christmas, along with some “panting” textile.
On first hearing this term, I was rather unsure what to expect.
In fact, it simply refers to fabric for men’s trousers.
The custom here is to buy a length of material then take it to one of the countless, small tailoring shops, along with an existing pair of trousers which fit you .
The tailors will use the old pair as a template for the new.
Picture taken in a Fort Cochin tailors.
My dining room curtains were not fit for purpose.
They were intended for neither the room nor the house in which they hang.
Last week the drapes were formally retired, along with their ugly metal supporting rail.
Yesterday my carpenter fitted a new wooden curtain pole.
Today we hired an auto-rickshaw, braved the monsoon, and hit the mainland in search of textiles.
My upholsterer hopes to have the new curtains in place by Monday..
Pictures taken in the fabrics department of Kalyan Silks, one of Cochin’s biggest textile stores.
Next Wednesday is Dalila’s birthday.
Yesterday Anu and I went across to the mainland, ostensibly to buy fabrics to re-cover the diwan and dining room chairs.
In reality, Dalila’s birthday pressed heavily on our minds. We were acutely aware of past inadequacies and humiliations.
With skilled help, Anu and I both felt the only way was up.
Kalyan Silks sells the best textiles in Cochin and has two floors devoted to saris.
But I had failed to think it through: Two floors devoted to saris.
We were totally overwhelmed.
Beautiful, elegant and amused, female shop assistants ask if they can help.
– Who are we buying for? A bride?-
– No. Our wonderful cook –
– How old is she? –
Anu is flummoxed. But I have many years of professional training behind me and flatter myself into thinking I’m a shrewd judge of age.
(I also know the age of her sons.)
I hazard an expert opinion.
We are led to countless rows of saris, deemed suitable for Dalila. As an act of charity, a male shop assistant is summoned to help us out.
I choose a sari for Dalila. Anu chooses his gift.
We are almost finished but I know that every sari has a dedicated choli.
The material fortunately includes its matching length for a top.
– You want a blouse lining? –
– This material is see through –
Yes. We need a blouse lining.
– You want a skirt lining? –
After this, choosing soft furnishings is a doddle.
Photographs taken by me in Kalyan Silks. Art work taken, without permission, from the Kalyan Silks website