The Yellow Shirt

I was scrolling through old photos stored on my laptop, as I am wont to do on occasion, and I came across a picture of my dad in his Yellow Shirt. [Yes, capital Y and capital S.] Although this story is oft-repeated in my family, I don’t think I’ve ever written it out here.

It all started when my mom bought me an over-sized lemon yellow shirt from a shop in our building. The shop’s name was Safwa [can’t believe I still remember this!] and she had paired it off with a denim divided miniskirt. I used to practically live in miniskirts, seeing as it was Dubai and there was none of the staring that is so prevalent in India.

Anyway, I loved that yellow shirt. It was cotton-linen and super comfortable. Plus, paired with the skirt, it made my legs look amazing. As a teenager, this was a very important criterion.

However, most unexpectedly, my father also took a shine to that shirt. What was a loose, baggy look on me, fit him perfectly. And I kid you not, he pinched that shirt all the time. If I wanted to wear it, it was usually in the wash after he had worn it, or he was actually in the shirt at the time. Being an uncharitable teen, obviously this bugged me no end. But because it was my dad, I let him get away with it, mostly confining my displeasure to half-hearted grumbling. To which he would reply: “It is my yellow shirt. You can’t borrow it.” My mother, wisely, mostly stayed out of the fray, although she did tell him off a couple of times.

It was a fun thing.

A year or so later, the shirt had been worn to death. Multiple trips to the laundry had reduced the colour and crispness considerably, and it was a limp and pale version of its former self. Which is when my dear old dad decided to “return” it to me: “Here. You can have your yellow shirt back now. I don’t want it any more.”

Cheeky devil. Of course he didn’t want it any more; it was faded and pale and looked like it would collapse any second. Harrumph. But he so loved the colour that we were thereafter perennially on the lookout for a replacement for him. The funny thing about my original yellow shirt was that it was meant to be an over-sized WOMEN’S shirt. This time around, we looked in menswear departments.

Years passed, and we finally found a pure linen one in Mumbai. It was the right colour, and my father pounced on it when we brought it home. He was so thrilled. And then proceeded to wear it out even more thoroughly than the first one, till one day we had to cut it loose. It had done its duty. This was some time during our stay in Goa.

In the interim, my aunt tried [and failed] to buy yellow shirts for him. She has, um, questionable taste in clothes, and couldn’t seem to zero in on the right colour, shape, or size. He didn’t like anything she bought, and the pile of rejected yellow shirts languished miserably in a corner of his cupboard.

Then we moved back to Mumbai, and I was occasionally inveigled into going shopping at Phoenix Mills in Lower Parel. One time, the four of us [mom, dad, the ex, and I] were traipsing through the mall, tuckered out by that point, when I passed by a Cottonworld store.

Seeing that much of their wares were in pastels, I asked my family to wait outside while I nipped in to check whether they had lemon yellow shirts. [By this time, finding the shirt had taken on quest-like proportions.] They did.

I ran back outside, and dragged my family back in. We excitedly bought a shirt that Dad LOVED. [And mom also picked out a white linen shirt for the ex, because: “How can I buy only for dad, and not for him?!” *rolls eyes*]

My father was ecstatic with the shirt. He wore it the very next day, to Matunga market. The same market where he decided to have a spot of lunch. South Indian lunch, to be specific. Dosa, chutney, and sambar to be ultra-specific. Sambar, which he then proceeded to spill on his brand new, much coveted, eternally longed-for yellow shirt.

I got home from work that day, and was greeted by an extremely sheepish father and a half-exasperated, half-amused mother. And the yellow shirt with a large orangey-brown stain down the front.

I’m with my mother on this one. Sigh. Groan. Giggle.


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