I have this thing for clothes. They fascinate me, all kinds of clothes, and I love figuring out how they are made, what goes best with what, stuff like that. I also like tailoring, but only do odd bits during plays, due to time constraints.
Obviously, if I'd had a daughter my mother, my mejopishi (aunt) and I would have gone crazy designing away for her. So when I was handed a Bhablet instead and told that I must make do with that, I gave in with somewhat poor grace. But as time passed I slowly discovered that even little baby boys can give some fun in their dressing. For instance, when I brought The Bhablet home, it was during the Durga Puja (on the navami), so I wore a new yellow sari my parents had gifted me. And The Bhablet was also dressed in a white dress with yellow chicks embroidered on it and wrapped in a perfectly matching yellow blanket. I loved the looks on people's faces when they saw what I'd done, esecially V, who is still disgusted. Even now, while I no longer bother with dressing him in clothes to match what I'm wearing, I still try to ensure, as far as possible, that we don't clash too much. Because I'll be carrying him, right? And I don't want his colours ruining mine. Duh. I know it's him everybody's looking at, so I want the background (that's me) at least fitting the part well.
Anyway, I digress. Last month I was sorting out some old clothes and packing them away for storage when I held up a pair of dungarees and told V, "I'm never giving these away. Do you know they are the only clothes I've ever bought him?"
That said a lot. For a baby born to a couple who were very badly off financially when he turned up, The Bhablet is one surprisingly affluent child. He has a comfortable cot (my brother's, used by all of us cousins in turn); a high-chair (gift from my parents for the rice ceremony); a pram (from my parents' friends); a walker (from V's brother); a really nice convertible sling (from my barapishi); a playmat (from a friend of mine); a Mothercare bathtub and cool potty (from my parents). And I've not gone into all the silverware and jewellery he received for his rice ceremony. He continues to get toys and clothes from adoring fans all over the place.
He has also been gifted clothes that are meant for baby girls. Or for babies much fatter than a Skinny Wee Bhablet. Or more sets of knitwear than he can possibly wear in one winter. And he has been gifted toys which he can spare, he has so many. So when we visit other babies I always manage to find something or the other that he can spare. V likes to tease me saying that I'm giving our son's stuff away, but my logic is simple -- I only give away that which he has enough of or clothes which won't suit him but will look nice on the child I'm giving them to. Makes more sense to me than stuffing The Bhablet into unsuitable clothes just because they were given to him. And I try to do this carefully, so as to not give away stuff given by close relatives and friends. From time to time he does wear clothes that I don't like so much, but I know how much love went into the gift, so it doesn't matter what I think. Also, somehow he always makes them look attractive on him, so...
I explain to the parents on the receiving end that these are gifts being passed on. Mostly they don't mind either, once I explain that I spent no money and that The Bhablet is not being deprived. His nappy buddy especially gets a lot of stuff because, while I do not mind him wearing pink, I don't want to overdo the ambiguity and dress him in frilly frocks with flowery embroidery! On the other hand, they look just perfect on her, so I fail to see why I should hang on to these gifts.
The other kind of gifts that are a slightly troubled issue are handmedowns. Now I grew up on my cousin's handmedowns. All through my childhood I also wore lovely frocks concocted by my mother and mejopishi and passed them down -- they were happily received. I do not see what the problem is. When The Bhablet was born, I received a call from an aunt who has two very young daughters. (They are the ones crouching at the bottom in the photo.) They are the closest in age to Rahul, among the relatives at hand anyway, so when she asked me what I'd like her to send us, I asked her to send old clothes and blankets. I remembered stitching and helping to make some of these blankets so I knew how cosy the flannel ones were, perfect for the approaching winter, and wanted those most of all. Besides, having been through two babies, they were bound to be really soft. To my surprise she was hesitant, asking me several times if I wouldn't like new ones. It turned out that her sister, who was married a couple of months after me and had a baby a couple of months after me too had asked her not to send any handmedowns because she wanted everything new for her baby.
Well, to each her own, but I was quite happy to get those supersoft kanthas and flannel blankets. The Bhablet had plenty of new ones but they weren't half as soft. Besides, he was delivered a month early (the doc wanted to go on holiday after the delivery) and used to break out in a rash at the touch of certain fabrics. So these extra blankets were really useful. So were the few clothes that had survived. To my especial joy, she had sent a pair of six-pockets that her first-born had worn when a year old. I remembering complaining to all and sundry that a one year-old had the latest fashion in cargoes and I didn't!
And I remember this silky quilt, very pretty in pale yellow and appliqued with lambs, that Cousin T's mother sent. It was from my aunt's own infancy! I was scared of using it, it was so pretty, and eventually used it mostly to shade a side of the cot from the cold, and to give him something to look at while lying in the cot. This aunt also sent her own silver jhinuk, when she heard we were looking for one. There's a joy in using these gifts, in maintaining the thread, that new clothes will not have -- unless they become handmedowns in turn.
So I really don't see what the problem with handmedowns is. If you don't like what you're given, put them away or give them away. Usually they are given and not asked to be returned. I believe little boys should wear dungarees (for reasons of comfort and convenience as well as fashion) so I asked my parents to buy several pairs in varying sizes for The Bhablet. The ones he has worn so far have given excellent wear but are still in practically mint condition. I plan to preserve them carefully, to give them one day to a deserving [mother of a] baby boy. And I intend to ask for them back, once the kid's done with them. I think it's a very nice [future] gesture from my side. I would be extremely hurt and rather contemptuous if the chosen baby['s mother] turned them down as 'old clothes'.