Things You See On Mumbai Locals #5: The Hand of the Modern Indian Woman – The Best Of Two Worlds


From in between the half a dozen Nike and Adidas armbands, the symbol Oum tentatively peeks out


– this is the arm of the modern Indian woman. The red tikka or vermilion mark contrast sharply with her GreenDay t-shirt. She is just as punctual for the first day, first show of the latest Tom Cruise thriller, as she is for every puja or religious ceremony in the temple. She revels in her culture and is unapologetic of her bold sexuality.
The way the young girls in Indian metropolitan cities have assimilated the modern day trends with the traditions of the past is admirable and worthy of being written about.
In my college, for instance, girls have the option of choosing between two ways of dress – ethnic or western. A girl can, if she so chooses dress in tight figure-hugging jeans and a tee or a short black dress, but she would look just as attractive in an azure blue salwar suit with silver lace on the duppata and dangling silver earrings, with a tiny diamante bindi to finish the look. You could also, and many do, combine both forms and mix ‘n’ match – an ethnic kurti over jeans, a duppata thrown casually with a dress, or something as insidious as a traditional block printed dress or a tie and dye shirt….options abound, and the modern Indian woman is determined to make best of all of them.
If you move from her wardrobe to her food habits a similar fusion prevails. For instance, today on the train it was the birthday of a passenger. She is in her early 40s and travels regularly to work with a group of her middle-aged friends, who all wished her with a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday!’ today. She distributed packed chocolates and wafers among them, and they gifted her a packed red box that contained coconut barfi. Or the other day, I overhead a 30-something woman tell her friend that the manchurIan balls she prepared for her son’s birthday party had been praised by all, as had been the rice payasam she had cooked.
Just like the sacred thread which hides underneath the more modern accessories, underneath the modern exterior, the Indian woman has preserved her heritage and culture. Over the years, instead of discarding one for another, we have chosen to learn from all that’s new and modern while not forgetting the wisdom of the ages. Be it in her wardrobe or her kitchen – the modern Indian woman has skillfully fused the best of both worlds.


4 thoughts on “Things You See On Mumbai Locals #5: The Hand of the Modern Indian Woman – The Best Of Two Worlds

    • No, that’s the beauty of it! We never consciously think about it or plan it. It’s just who we are, who we have been for so long that it comes naturally to us now. It’s a part of our identity, this random fusion of our past and the present, that we hope to carry on to our future. I for instance wear a kurti over jeans to college almost every day. So do most of my friends. It’s comfortable and easy to manage. Sometimes I might pair it with a pair of traditional danglers or something more modern like a pair of stud earrings. I have seen people wear duppatas over jeans and blouses, or pair a dress with a clunky traditional necklace. And you won’t believe how beautiful they look together!
      For food too we barely think about it. Almost all restaurants serve a mixture of traditional Indian and global cuisine and it’s perfectly fine to mix and match our plate according to our palate. Sometimes we might use it to create a new dish altogether, like hakka noddles, which tastes NOTHING like original chinese noodles. Put together this is what we are. After all India too is nothing but a fusion of a lot of different races, religions, languages, cultures and histories. Finding harmony in cacophony is just the Indian way of life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Brilliant observation and an even better explanation. I think India is no more the place which shoves the old household woman to your face… it has radicalized the notion of a modern working mother and that portrays in their clothing and accessories too 😀


      • Thank you 🙂 Yes I agree with you. The Indian woman has moved free of her traditional shackles and also the shadow of Westernization to emerge with a new and unique identity of her own!


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