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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

India: The Shirt off My Back

The beach at Varkala
Varkala is home to sun, sea, sand... and lots of shirt shops

Some people were born to shop. I, on the other hand, shudder every time Christmas comes round, not to mention the January sales, the Easter sales, the summer sales and the autumn price drops. The only reason I still haven't run screaming from the building is the Internet, without which I would still be wearing the same pair of socks I went to school in. I hate shopping and shopping hates me, and frankly we're both stubborn enough not to want to rock the status quo.

Suits Me

It's hard to travel through India without spotting Indian tailors hard at work, sitting in the fronts of their shops, pedalling their cast-iron sewing machines into a frenzy among piles of colourful material. If you're at all clothes-minded, this must be like heaven, but for those of us whose travelling clothes have long sleeves purely to keep the mosquitoes from biting, and whose trousers are dirt-coloured so they don't show the dirt, those precious weaves of cream, ochre and crimson look less like an Aladdin's cave and more like the warning colours on the belly of a particularly poisonous frog. So it was with some trepidation that Peta and I set out to scout out the tailors of Varkala, in search of trousers, shirts and, above all, a painless shopping experience.

A Second Attempt

I could probably have relaxed a bit more if we still hadn't got Peta's clothes to buy. She hadn't seen any suitable fabrics in the first shop, so we wandered down the road, popping into a couple of shops that sold clothes, but they didn't appear to have a tailor in tow and their clothes were completely the wrong size, so they were short visits. A little further on, though, we were accosted by a man who tried to gain our trust by putting on the worst imitation of an English accent that I've heard in a long time, and instead of warning us off, we found ourselves drawn in by, of all things, a man clad in a dhoti saying, 'Lovely jubbly,' in an utterly banal voice. What were we thinking?