The dupatta is a necessary wardrobe item for a woman in India. Normally worn as a long scarf, draped over one or both shoulders with a kurti, it is usually a flourish of color for any indian outfit.
Yes, there are practical uses for the average Indian dupatta: a cover for one’s head upon entering a temple, maybe even a shield for fumes when riding in an open rickshaw. But even a few months into living in India, I have found a growing number of new uses for the dupatta:
- doorbell muffler: When we first moved into our apartment in Lajpat Nagar, we were accosted by a steady stream of wallahs, each coming at a different but equally sleep-disrupting hour of the day. To make matters worse, the doorbell, which is so loud it could wake the dead, is situated on the wall right in front of my bedroom door. Shaken out of my sleep for the fourth or fifth time one morning, I suddenly came up with an idea — I had just bought two new kurtis from the market, and each came with a dupatta and churidar. I quickly opened out one of the dupattas, and wrapped the full length of it tightly around the doorbell. Voila: slightly less deafening.
- bedsheet/mosquito net: During my trip to Jodhpur, I stayed at an adorable little guesthouse. It had a/c, murals painted on the walls, a bathroom twice the size of mine in Delhi, a beautifully carved wooden coffee table. But when I went to turn down the covers on the first night, I found only mattress beneath. As it turns out, many guesthouses don’t provide a cover sheet. I dug through my stuff and found a trusty dupatta that I had thrown in my bag in case Jodhpur required a covered head for any reason. While the dupatta never covered my head during that trip, it did cover the rest of my body every night. It was the perfect light sheet for a hot, humid night, and also deterred any mosquitoes in search of a late dinner.
- halloween decoration: I know what you’re thinking, and while I really should have thought to put a dupatta over my head and go as a ghost for halloween, the thought only now occurred to me. Instead, see the ambience my dupatta provided for this lovely sculpture of candles for our Halloween party in The Laj (we now refer to our apartment in Lajpat Nagar as such):
- makeshift clothing: After three days of sitting on the beach in Benaulim, Goa, I may or may not have found myself completely out of un-sand-filled clothes. As in, the only clean thing left in my suitcase was a spare bedsheet (see above). Then I realized that I had my dupatta stashed away in a side pocket! I quickly wrapped it twice around myself and tied it at the front — tada! Makeshift sarong, with a little beaded fringe running down the front! All ready to do laundry.
- idli maker: I had been craving idlis for some time, and asked our maid, Anita, to make us some. Of course, cheese cloth is required to make idlis, and we didn’t have any. She asked if we had any spare, thin cloth hanging around the house. Of course we did: dupattas!