Excerpts from A Fashion Dictionary

the fashion dictionary is like a bazaar
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Editors’ Note: When Gaurav Monga submitted selections from his forthcoming work, A Fashion Dictionary, we loved them. But we wanted to know more of the story behind the writing: What prompted him to create this particular text, at this time? How does it fit into everything else he’s done as a writer and educator? What words could he offer a reader coming to this text for the first time?

“Weaving Text(ile)s” is the resulting essay, a sort of artist statement that is as beautiful and poetic as the selections from A Fashion Dictionary themselves. Enjoy!

Weaving Text(ile)s: The Story of A Fashion Dictionary

Since I was a teenager I have had a fascination with glossaries, lists, encyclopedias, and dictionaries. Something that intrigued me, especially with dictionaries, was that the meaning of a given term often relied on other terms within the text. For a long time I wanted to create a literary work that was a constellation of prose poems, short stories and vignettes parading as dictionary entries. Ideally, these did not need to be read linearly. 

The result of this long-standing impulse is A Fashion Dictionary.

Dictionaries are structured alphabetically, which although bearing an internal logic, also demonstrate an arbitrary taxonomy: there is no semantic connection from one word to the next. The only remaining taxonomic principle adheres to the pattern of miscellany. The dictionary is, by its very essence, a constellation of miscellaneous parts, much like the inventory of a bazaar, particularly a Sunday bazaar that seems to sell everything under the sun: screwdrivers, notebooks, cups, saucers, live birds; not to mention, of course, a lot of clothes.

With A Fashion Dictionary, I wanted to create the experience of walking through a crowded Indian bazaar. I grew up in one, and it is a common motif in much of my writing. In the first short story I ever wrote, Tears for Rahul Dutta, the main character disappears in a bazaar forever, and his family is forced to hold a funeral for him, rendering him dead. In my short story collection, My Father, the watchmaker, a central image is my father repairing watches in a shop within the crowded bazaar of Chandni Chowk.

I tried to liken two experiences: that of reading a book to wandering a bazaar, one filled with shoes, buttons, zippers, socks, frocks, collars, cuffs, slippers and stockings. But this is an inventory of words, a veritable verbal ersatz for the clothes themselves.

This metaphor is also different from Benjamin’s flaneur. Strolling along the arcades of Paris is not the same as being pushed into the crowded Sunday bazaar in Ahmedabad, an erstwhile mill town with a few remaining mills, one of which provides the world (Levis, etc.) with all its denim. Here we witness the traffic of clothes, export rejects produced in sweatshops for Zara, etc., along with their counterfeit trademarks; loafers that read Jimmy Choo, on sale for five dollars. This is fashion’s backwaters, its dump yard and workshop, its factory settings.

Although bereft of explicit reference to location, the text’s locution does not fail to betray my cultural geography. Many of the garments referenced bear specific historical significance to the Indian sub-continent and unlike Poe’s anonymous, Man of the Crowd, we find here a man about town. This latter figure projects my own maniacal desire to know the city in its totality, to meet every single being that comprises her population; a kind of dandiacal hero, not a recluse.

The work also weaves together my interests in literature and in fashion, adhering to a deep-seated belief that text and textile bear transcendental relations. (Clearly I believe in transcendence, in likening walking through a bazaar with reading a book.) It cannot be by mere chance that they stem from the same Latin root, texere, to weave. Walter Benjamin contended that fashion “couples the living body with the inorganic world,” weaving them together into a single patchwork.

It is with this excitement that I composed my text, weaving mixed media, the animate with the inanimate, where even a dog on a leash emerges as a fashion accessory. 

I had to, of course, choose appropriate excerpts for publishing here, and started with Abraham, a little like starting with an aleph (I always thought it was no accident that Abraham begins with the first two letters of the alphabet). I then move on to Adina, incidentally also a Hebrew name referring to a fashionable lover. 

There are some entries showing my cultural orientation, and others that demonstrate my varied interests in reading text(ile)s. Here, one witnesses an imperfect miscellany. Hence, very little credence is given to length and form. The full version of A Fashion Dictionary comprises short stories that run into ten pages along with two-liners.

Apart from telling stories, it is my intention to also play the role of amateur cultural historian, shopper and perhaps even shopkeeper, relating details of material culture and commerce. It is in works of literature that we often find the earliest references to dress. Are not poets the first historians of costume, long before there existed studies in fashion? Some of the earliest references to muslin, for instance, are found in the poetical works of the Delhi poet, Amir Khusro, something I don’t fail to mention under that entry.

As a bookish child, I would open a dictionary or encyclopedia volume to any given page, feeling that the word I discovered was meant for me. What we encounter when reading, I believe, we are fated to encounter, much like tangible objects or people we meet. 

Excerpts from A Fashion Dictionary

Abraham: The first entry in a fashion dictionary. One may wonder what Abraham may be doing here, in the first place, for he is also the first in line in all Abrahamic religions. One may find a similar first entry in a dictionary or glossary of Jewish terms. Abraham is also the name of a textile manufacturing plant founded in Switzerland in the nineteenth century. 

Acrylic: Man-made cellulose, acetate fabric or yarn created in Germany in 1869. Ever since then, this material has inundated clothing stores in all its forms, whether as lingerie, blouses, dresses, knitwear. If seen from a distance, one might confuse it for silk. A highly flammable material; not long ago, a sweatshop in Bangladesh producing cheap acrylic sweaters went off in flames.

Adina: Adina is a Hebrew name given to girls, a word that implies being soft and gentle. As a young school girl, this particular Adina, referenced in A Fashion Dictionary, began to think about what to wear, even if she were to step out to buy softee ice cream–she loved chocolate and vanilla. Her manner was already soft–she truly lived up to her name–and as she grew older her beauty flowed through her radiant ebony red-highlighted hair , her maternal soft body, reminiscent of Venus at her mirror by Diego Velázquez, or dresses worn in Rei Kuwakubo’s 1997 collection entitled Body meets Dress, emphasizing the soft beauty of a mother. Adina wears necklaces, some even of cloth, around her tall thin beautiful neck. I wonder whether her chronic throat ache is a result of this long camel-like surface area, allowing for more vulnerability–gentle slit-like openings on cloth. Already at a tender age, her eyesight began to suddenly decline, for which reason her loving ‘papa’ ran from pillar to post in order to consult the best eye doctors in the country. Perhaps, Adina was a little ashamed or shy of wearing thick glasses. She had no other choice but to place them on the ridge of her small nose and face, engendering a veritable mist upon soft moist eyes as deep as the ocean in which I would like to drown.

Androgyny: Leopold von Sacher Masoch, the author of Venus im Pelz, claimed to be of noble Ruthenanian descent, on his mother’s side of the family. This may or may not have been true, as his Masoch grandfather was born in the Hapsburg Banat of Tamesvar, in what is today modern day Romania, and may himself have been of either Czech or Slovak lineage. Sacher-Masoch’s national identity, much like his sexual identity–like perhaps many others hailing from a multinational Austro-Hungarian empire–was very much conditioned by his imagination. He was noted to have said that “ People have already taken me for almost everything, for a Jew, a Hungarian, a Bohemian, and even for a woman.” 

Barber : From time immemorial, the professional barber has his place in every country under the sun, and to trace completely the history of the barber and the tonsorial arts, it would, perhaps be necessary to go back to the lower Pleistocene period, to a time when human faces came into fashion. 

Churidar:  The trousers which usually accompanied the Jama (see Jama) during the Mughal period were long and wrinkled. Their lower extremities were gradually increased in size to such a degree that the legs had to be drawn up and gathered into folds round the ankles. This style of trousers came to be known as a churidar that is still widely worn today. It was a device by which new folds and lines were bestowed on the shortened creaseless trousers of the early Mughals. 

Disease: The tubercular look was romanticized, and one can even go so far to contend that it was one of the factors that helped shape Victorian fashion and body aesthetics. In the recent past the aesthetic associated with cancer and AIDS has seeped into designers’ clothes and models exhibit their work via their emaciated faces, bodies and clothes. The advent of the mirror must have sped up fashion, for which a narcissistic tendency is indispensable. Collections inspired by disease, as a result, may serve as a kind of mirror, where the cut of a garment, for instance, allows us to reflect on ourselves and our mortality. It may even perhaps serve as a coping mechanism. For many, it is merely an insult to the sick, especially to the terminally ill and a sign of poor taste. 

Dupatta: The dupatta serves a dual function of a headdress and the ornamental facing of a skirt. The cloth is often light and flimsy and barely succeeds in concealing the figure which is inevitably exposed when the cloth is passed over the shoulder. The dupatta recurs as a romantic motif in the poetry of the Indian subcontinent, as a kind of screen coquettishly used to temporarily hide the face, as was done by Waris Shah’s Hir when she wanted to conceal the tears caused by her absent lover.

Fabric: cloth made by weaving , knitting or felting fibers. At times, it may very well be possible to darn torn fabric, but often, as in the case with severely torn garments, one may lack the ability to reproduce a similar garment of the same fabric, handiwork and ornament, for even if it may be possible to do so, at least superficially, it nevertheless often lacks an essential weave or fiber upon which the essence, splendour, beauty and tradition of the fabric rests. 

Father’s Clothes: He was born in this city a long time ago. The city had since then shifted. In his youth, Khanpur had been supposedly the ‘happening place.’ His parents sent him to boarding school when he was very young, most likely because there were no real good English medium schools in the city or perhaps because he ran the risk of being molested by his maternal grandfather. After school, he returned home and would stay here forever.

He did not leave Khanpur much and even if he did, he would only venture to neighboring areas, Usmanpura, Shahpur, Navrangpura, Mithakhali. The new city growing in the suburbs was for him another city altogether, so much so that when he had to meet his clients there, he would devise ways in which he could catch them if they happened to be in his part of town, a part of town he knew exceedingly well.

For some reason, he never learned how to drive a car, not because of that botch-up surgery which would later result in impairing his left knee, but because it never happened the way it happens for most men. Sheltered in a pastoral boarding school, he returned already past that age where boys like to play with cars, and he was never really interested in moving about, anyway.

After his father died, he continued to live with his mother and barely left his home; only on days when pending errands had piled up, would he plan a day out when he could run all these errands together, and then he would hibernate again for sometimes almost a month. It could be safely said that this man only left the confines of his home a few times a year.

To his friends, he said there was no need to make any plans to meet, that he was almost always home, so if one happened to be in the area where he lived, one could just give him a call; he did not like making plans because he wanted to be free. It was bad enough that work required commitment; he never wanted his social life, of which there was hardly much, to be about appointments. This way, he could always resort to telling his friends that today just happened to be one of those days when he had to run his errands. As a result, very few people saw him and most of his college friends had grown old in the city without seeing him since their college days. 

One of the places he would frequent on his errand days was an old Parsi kitchen that was older than him.  This kitchen had fed him even when he was a child visiting home on winter break from boarding school, for his mother was busy painting nails and applying make-up for brides during the wedding season, and though some of the older Parsi women who ran the kitchen had died, there were still some Parsis left in the city, and many of them met here, waiting for their food, making small talk. He even used to joke by insisting that the Parsi kitchen had in fact improved after the Parsi cooks departed, that the Hindus were doing a better job in running the Parsi kitchen.

On such days, he would slip into his father’s shirts and trousers, for he believed that even after all these years of being washed, they still kept his odour, or perhaps because he liked the odor of death. He lived largely on memory, and could only remember old names and faces. It was almost as if he would forget the people he met a week ago, unlike the faces he knew during the time he was in boarding school and the years immediately following thereafter. 

He would arrive in his regular Auto-rickshaw, which he used for all his errands and have it parked directly outside the Parsi kitchen. The man driving the rickshaw had known him since he was a child and had watched this young boy age at a rate even faster than his own. He always urged him to better comb his unkempt hair, to stop being an old boy and to buy new clothes, to leave the clothes of his dead father behind and become a man. 

Frock: Originally, a frock was a loose, long garment with wide, full sleeves. It often had a belt and was worn primarily by monks and priests. Hence, the origin of the term defrock or unfrock, meaning “to eject from the priesthood.” Today, a frock may designate a woman’s or girl’s, or child’s dress or light overdress. In her diary, in the spring of 1925, Virginia Woolf wrote “people have any number of states of consciousness and I should like to investigate the party consciousness, the frock consciousness”, which functions somewhat like an open secret and refers to those dresses (frocks) one wears to conceal and reveal oneself simultaneously at parties, parties one often visits begrudgingly.

Gaurav: My name is Gaurav Monga, and though I like to  think about what a dress means, my own personal sartorial sense is simple, dry and pleasant. In some senses, I am inconspicuous, and like to dress in camouflage-often just as a mere silhouette-in order to disappear from the page.

Gray:  I enjoy the color gray. I have gray trousers, gray blazers, a gray Pathani Suit and even charcoal, ash gray shoes. Recently I lost a pair of lovely oval brown glasses and found a gray pair, similar in shape–much like in cases of love when one has no choice but to replace one girl with another, to fill a hole-that I felt would give a me a new year look–I bought them in early February. I imagine them fitting well, especially with all the navy blue shirts and kurtas I wear, not to mention my increasingly graying hair.

Green: In The Little Dictionary of Fashion, Christian Dior mentions that he rather enjoys the colour green, even though it’s surprisingly often considered inauspicious, the colour of trees, leaves and grasses where shepards roam. In Der Gruene Heinrich by Gottfried Keller, one of the narrator’s only surviving memory of his father takes place a year before his death: His father is carrying him in the green fields in his arms, talking to him about the need to be grateful towards the creator whilst wearing a green frock with metal buttons–his father in fact makes an entrance in the novel in the first chapter wearing a green frock of the latest cut. Apart from the obvious sartorial reference to the color green, Der Gruene Heinrich also possesses a green imagination. Stanley Plumly, the late American writer, sheds light on this in his essay, Germans that appeared in the Prague literary magazine B O D Y. He says the following when referring to trees, “This is my family’s business, the harvesting of trees, the way you harvest wheat or cattle. It’s a killing, necessary business. Trees, however, are especially different, not only in their bearing but in the fact that, left alone, they are potentially immortal — immortal as individuals but even more as species and presences to the life on the planet and to human beings in particular, no less so since we climbed down out of them. Bristlecone pines out West can hang on for thousands of years; Great White Oaks in deep forests in the Northeast can last for hundreds. Trees literally stand at the green source of life on the soft earth. As a practical matter they are as essential to our ancestry as to our oxygen supply. And on an entirely different level, they are indelible to the green imagination of the planet.” 

Heteroglossia: In his paper Слово в романе [Slovo v romane], published in English as “Discourse in the Novel,” Mikhail Bakhtin introduced heteroglossia, a term that refers to the multi-voiced registers that comprise a literary work, mixing high-speech, for instance, with language of the street, somewhat akin to wearing a silk tussar elephant skin coloured Kurta coupled with dirty black jeans.

Hidden pockets: Just like in most immaterial habitats, or for that matter material habitats, there are often parts that are hidden. One might occasionally find perfectly tailored and well-constructed garments that possess hidden pockets, spaces which you accidentally discover. It is usually their plain, sober, perhaps even out of vogue aspect that renders such simple looking garments to have a complex bearing. With garments like these, one almost gets the feeling that they were designed to continually construct themselves or change colour automatically contingent on the wearer’s mood. The emergence of new fresh pockets in unexpected parts, sometimes perhaps even so useless that not even the smallest object can be hidden there. One wonders whether it is the object that one places there that is hidden or the pocket itself. Their sober, clean, well-constructed look may force you to gut out the whole garment in fear of finding hidden pockets in the inner lining; miniscule pockets that are so small that they appear as secrets, themselves.

Indigo: Much need not be said here about indigo’s universal appeal, being the oldest dye known in history. What, however, might be worth mentioning in A Fashion Dictionary is that in modern history, more than anything else, it is fashion that has altered the path of history, that drove the European greed for beauty to colonize distant parts of the world for the purposes of conferring a beautiful blue onto their clothes, resulting in famine and slavery. 

Jama: During the Mughal reign in India, the coat or jama most in vogue was a long tunic with an overlapping collar fastened by means of a binding on both sides, and gathered at the waist by a cloth belt or sash tied artistically into a knot, conferring to the garment the appearance of a full skirt with heavy falling lines. The Urdu poet, Mir Taqi Mir, was exceedingly fond of wearing pointed shoes and coats whose circumference measured fifty full yards, but with the decline of the Moghul empire, this sartorial extravagance began to be perceived as burlesque. In 1780, when Mir, forced by circumstances to leave Delhi, arrived in Lucknow in the already outmoded attire as described above, he made himself the laughing stock of the town. Fashion had moved towards the general trend of shortening dresses, signs of a declining empire. 

Kabir Das : As North Indians, we grew up listening and reciting the poems of the destitute poet-bard weaver, Kabir Das, who wove his poems much like the coarse cotton sheets he wrapped himself in. 

Lingerie: The basis of good dressing for women, the closest to one’s skin, for even if you had on the most beautiful dress, you could never feel your best, even if it was only you who knew that your undergarments were not equally beautiful. Also, your dresses would never be able to hang perfectly on you unless your lingerie were cut perfectly to fit you underneath. I think Christian Dior was correct in contending that “Our mothers used to spend a lot of time and money on lingerie and I think they were right. Real elegance is everywhere, especially in things that don’t show”, much like Christian principles, as Marian Elisabeth Pritchard in her book, The Cult of Chiffon, argues.

Man-about-town: A man-about-town is usually impeccably adorned with ornament—for him the city is one large design, and he himself believes that he is a part of it, like a character in a painting—and because he does not have much work and does not like to waste his day in an office in front of a computer, he wanders about town, sometimes completing errands on his walks. Different from the mere flaneur, the anonymous man lost amongst the crowd, the man-about-town knows almost everyone in the city, comprising millions. That is his life and ambition—to know everyone, down to their names, to encompass the entire population of the city where he lives.

Mannequin:  Contrary to what is understood under this term, a mannequin is not a mere (wooden) doll upon which garments are hung, as if on a hanger. Mannequins are those bodies that by virtue of their splendour and animation breathe life into cloth. It was Charles Frederick Worth, the grand couturier, who replaced the wooden doll with a human model. Often, however, these human models conduct themselves as if they were mere wooden or plastic dolls, without life or intelligence.

Muslin: Padmavat, a ballad composed in A.D 1540, features a woman dressed in a sari made from the most exquisite type of muslin, commonly used for women’s dresses in those days. Amir Khusro, the Delhi poet, once remarked that this muslin was of such a thin material that “it revealed the whole body. When folded up it was no bigger in span than a fingernail; spread out, it could cover up the whole world.” 

Narcissism: This dictionary is quite ostensibly—as if it’s being exhibited like garments on the runaway-teeming with narcissistic tendencies. In order to express perhaps the kernel of the entire work, one need only imagine a lonely man spending the entire morning, trying out multiple outfits from his wardrobe in order to take photographs of himself.

Occasion:  Sartorial behavior is more often than not, influenced by  the notion of occasion, so much so that one waits almost an entire year to don a sari, for instance, to attend a friend’s wedding.  There is nothing more boring than wearing the right dress for an apt occasion; as regards to fashion, everything should be unexpected and unpredictable. The beauty of donning fancy dress to step outside one’s home is what makes it fancy, in the first place. One’s clothing should always be conspicuous and should make one stick out like a sore thumb. In the words of Paloma Picasso, “Sometimes I get very dressed up just to go to the corner for some bread; I dress for my own amusement.

Ornament: Much can be said about the role and significance of ornament  in A Fashion Dictionary, but perhaps too much, as well. Since this is a work written with as much love for fashion as for literature, it would be worth mentioning, in this connection, that much like how a necklace or earrings function as veritable ornaments, writers of short stories or poems or of A Fashion Dictionary like to pepper, populate and string their literary works with words that function as accessories, as veritable ornaments, not only in terms of content–by virtue of writing stories about tailors, dandies, queens, shopkeepers, typists, guests, posticheurs–but also in terms of style and form. Ornamentation, as a result, seen as a sartorial-literary category aims to fashion stories that weave material from which frocks and stockings are made.

Paper clothes: Paper clothing enjoyed a brief vogue in the 1960’s. Paper suits and underwear for women were cheap and disposable. Much aligned with the ideas of the Italian futurists, material that did not last, that did not endure was the material of the future, clothes that one could throw in the garbage after a long, lonely day.

Patchwork: Needlework in which small pieces of cloth in different designs, colors, or textures are sewn together, much like the pages of this dictionary, a patchwork habitat woven together to emanate the appearance of both originality and novelty, though it is largely composed of stolen or often even missing parts. 

Payal: Hindi term for anklet. It is also a name given to a girl child. The beauty of this particular trinket, apart from emphasizing beautiful feet, rests on the seduction of the sound it produces and is often perceived and registered a moment before the woman wearing it comes within view. 

Phiran: Although, I very well know that a woolen phiran can easily be acquired. All I really need to do is order it online, I nevertheless only wish for it to be handed down to me as a family heirloom, as my mother’s side of the family hails from the Kashmir valley. Wandering the streets of Srinagar in the month of December when the whole city–both men and women- are Phiran clad is quite enchanting, but there are a lot of older people who ceased to wear their everyday winter garb in the 90’s, as they were much too easily associated with militants who hid guns and grenades inside their phirans. There is however, a resurgence of the phiran, not only as a symbol of age old traditions, but of new fashions. Now one also finds Phirans in alternate cuts, color and fabric, fabric that was once made in Kashmir is often now imported from China. Traditionally women’s phirans were usually yellow, green, blue and red amidst encircling white snow. 

Sock: The modern English word for the old English word, socc., referring to a light slipper. As a young child, Walter Benjamin used to rummage through all the miscellaneous clothing in his closet and arrive finally at his socks that were, in the usual fashion, rolled up. Little Walter would reach into the depths of this little bag in search of a surprise, a gift he imagined finding lying deep therein, but by the time he had reached the bottom and discovered the present, he was often left disappointed. He used to repeatedly do this, sometimes causing him to go into a trance, for every time he unrolled a sock, he would arrive at the realization that the sock that served as a little bag for the present that lay inside would disappear. He noticed, already as a child that that which was enveloped was in fact made of the same material as the envelope, that there was no difference between content and form. Walter Benjamin speaks of his socks in a book entitled Berlin Childhood around 1900 when he embarks on writing about growing up a son of an art collector in a city that he fears he will no longer see, perhaps the most apt moment to hold on to a cozy childhood ridden with enchanted telephones, loving aunts, closed closets and rolled-up socks, material of an irrevocably lost time.

Textile: Textile naturally bears an association with text, as both are woven together from the Latin root, texere, to weave. Sharon Kivland, the London based writer who also shares her time in rural France, keeping to her vegetable garden, speaks in her book, Abécédaire, of a little girl J. Rousseau knew who ‘learned to write before learning to read. She began to write with her needle before she wrote with a quill.’ Elsewhere, in the same book, the writer says the following, “​​Hannah A. wrote of Walter Benjamin as ‘producing a work consisting entirely of quotations, one that […] could dispense with any accompanying text’.  And this is how the text(ile) of A Fashion Dictionary is being woven. Walter B. contended that fashion “couples the living body with the inorganic world”, weaving them together into a single patchwork, much like the garden patches of Sharon.K’s garden in rural France.

Thread:  a thin fine cord formed by spinning and twisting short fibers into a continuous strand, a train of thought that connects the parts of something-a story- without which neither the clothes in this dictionary nor the dictionary, itself would be spun.

Tight-fitted clothes: Clothes that are tight-fitted in general restrict movement. In tight-fitted clothes, one may not be able to sit easily or even lie down. It’s possible that the clothes may be so tight they might not allow you to do much else. Even comporting oneself to the next room may be  painful. Sometimes these clothes appear so beautiful that one would only want to be photographed in them. Tight-fitted clothing often receives much criticism, perhaps because it stops the blood flow and sometimes even leaves you in pain; the notion of restricting or limiting can not be good, it curbs and limits expression. It is, however, possible that restriction itself allows for new possibilities. People love reading novels that transpire in small, contained, restricted spaces, such as boarding schools and monasteries. After wearing tight-fitted clothing for a considerable amount of time, one may find that the wearer has slowly grown accustomed to the pain and can even wear it beautifully. Often, even the sexual pleasure induced by gentle or even intense squeezing and pressing, especially by soft and titilating fabrics such as silk makes many submit themselves exultingly to the  discipline of tight-fitted dresses.

The Typist:  A woman with long unpainted nails, almost masculine, kept hammering on the keys of her typewriter, drafting innumerable pages of sheer garbage. Having no idea what she was writing afforded her a pleasure that was unthinking; meanwhile an entire urban population was moving about outside; no need to explain what they were doing. We have seen cities before even in their decline.

The typist wore an outfit made of paper, her clothes ending up in the trash day after day. After her working hours, she left the premises of the building when she was greeted by her boyfriend who was also dressed in disposables: a colorful vest made of paper shimmered in the sun.

The typist is a woman whose back if seen naked, looks like that of a beautiful man. She hands in the day’s type-written sheets of paper to her boss. Before coming to work, she performs her morning errands mechanically, much like how she types. Sometimes when it is not clear to her why she incessantly has to continue hammering away with her long fingers like that, she logically deduces that it is in order to make an uninterrupted noise in the office.

The typist has two parents and a brother, a kind of ideal family, except for the fact that the brother spends most of his hours inert, watching movies, twiddling his thumbs and plucking his pubic hair. He is truly an outsider by virtue of being fat and by cluttering his house with images of deities, family photographs and old antique overly ornate heavy walnut furniture. 

In the typist’s carpetless apartment it is clean like a polished leather shoe. One finds glistening silverware, a hot red toaster, a sparsely designed blue iron on a new ironing board and a clock with no numbers. In fact, the typist likes to surround herself with machines and is able to mimic the sounds they make using her mouth. The only machine that is lacking in her home is the typewriter, itself. 

She gets to typing as soon as she enters the office, and during breaks works on a novel she is writing about the future. In some instances, she is able to include in her manuscript a page or two of the verbal garbage she produces for her boss. 

While sitting in her cabin, the window looks out onto conical projectile machinery being hurled into the sky, mock fighter pilots thinking about their G-force while spending hard earned money working in banks to afford an hour of flying a disarmed fighter jet, cars that look like tanks. The typist begins to think of her boyfriend’s penis mushrooming from nowhere surrounded in foliage, inside his paper underwear. She keeps hammering away until an unexpected visitor arrives, but she greets him mechanically, and by doing so casts a shadow over his uniqueness.

While on her way home, the typist stops at a clothing store, ridden with e-clothes that change patterns on the surface of the same dress; she would like to own one of these dresses, for she loves to look good and loves anything that has to do with electricity and so buys one of them without trying it on. It’s remarkable that she has not graduated to the computer yet and is attached to the image of herself hammering on the keys of an old typewriter.

The typist likes to spend many of her useless winter hours at clothing stores and coffee shops. She likes to slip into a newly bought acrylic sweater while sipping on a caffe latte, after which she meets her boyfriend wearing clothes from the new Commes des Garcons store in the mall. It is winter, which is why paper clothes are useless now. No matter how much we want, we cannot change the weather.

There are times when the typist often grows sick of typing and considers retiring early, the thought of which keeps her typing for almost the rest of her life. When she grows old, most of the keys of her typewriter have long since fallen off and the ones that haven’t, she removes manually, herself. Although she still lives in her carpetless apartment, the red hot toaster has not been replaced; the color of her clothes have faded and the electricity that once flowed through and illuminated her dresses has been extinguished for many years now. 

Gaurav Monga is an author and educator originally from New Delhi. He is the author of several books. His current literary work looks at the relationship between fashion and literature. More about him and his work can be seen at: www.gauravmon.ga