By Nimi Ravindran
If I could, I’d wear a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans to work — which is my arts company, the Sandbox Collective — every day. Wait, maybe I already do.
I own less than 40 clothes on the whole, and I think that’s a lot. I have between 10 and 12 T-shirts and I wear them all the time, especially the black ones. I feel like that if I wear a red salwar and a red T-shirt, then I’ll look like a beetroot or something. So, black.
I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. I’m also thinking about actually creating a uniform. Imagine having three pairs of jeans and six t-shirts of a particular colour that I can wear every day, like the three pairs of uniforms we had in school. I could even just wash it and wear the same thing again the next day. Even when I buy clothes, I tend to pick up four kurtas and four t-shirts, and I wear them till they tear or fade. It means I can spend my money to travel and eat. Speaking of travel, I take 15 minutes to pack.
It’s really very simple to me. Clothes aren’t really my thing at all. I don’t want to waste time in the morning figuring out what I want to wear and sitting and matching this top with that bottom. It’s not that I’m a really busy person — I’m not, I just have no interest in fashion, what’s trendy and what isn’t, or feel any urge to be stylish. So I take 15 minutes to get ready every morning: 10 minutes to shower, and 5 minutes to get dressed.
Even if clothes and colours aren’t your greatest interest, you might feel foolish when someone points out to you that you’re wearing the same colour salwar and T-shirt, or that they don’t match, or something like that. It’s not that I want to look scruffy. But if I just wear a black or white T-shirt and jeans, I’m reasonably well-dressed to go to work.
I didn’t always love uniforms. I used to wear uniforms in school, and I hated them. Back then I couldn’t wait to go to college and wear cool clothes. When I finished school, in the beginning I felt really free because I didn’t have to wear uniforms any more. As it turned out, cool clothes interested me for a very short time and I got bored with this freedom very quickly. It ended as soon as I realised I had to figure out what to wear every single morning. (As an adult, now when I go to teach theatre workshops in schools, I look around and feel grateful for uniforms. Not everybody has money for fancy clothes. Uniforms make you feel equal.)
Pretty much everyone in my life thinks I should do better, but I’m just not interested. An old friend once told me it’s not about me, it’s also about the people I’m meeting — that it shouldn’t look like I care so little about them that I’ve landed up in faded clothes. I know that sometimes I’m very plainly dressed so I wear earrings, but that’s the maximum I can do. And while I wouldn’t wear a faded t-shirt to someone’s wedding, that’s exactly how I’d go to work, to the movies, and almost everything else.
Nimi Ravindran is the co-founder of Sandbox Collective, a Bangalore-based arts Collective.