When my most awaited first pair of Levi's ... a gift from my cuz in the US ... finally arrived, I figured I shouldn't have lied to her about my waist size. Never knew she's gonna send a pair of Levi's Strauss jeans!! If I knew, I would have told her that my waist was 30. I cannot describe the despair and pain I felt at that moment. And there was nobody to empathize either. Nobody knew about what a Levi's meant to an Indian middle-class guy of 22. I tried telling my girlfriend but she didn't understand why I felt so let down. Buy another pair was her advice because she didn't know that my dad thought a pair of jeans symbolizes the onset of consumerism on our otherwise virgin culture. Jeans are for Americans and that's the last thing we wanna become...American. Thou shall carry your umbrella in Calcutta lest it starts raining in Leningrad.
Out of all the dudheads in Banaras who were unaware of the importance of a pair of Levi's, I suddenly met someone who always dreamed of owning a pair of Levi's probably more than I ever did. It was Sohini, a very young girl who had just come to the university. Those days, we didn't know of jeans for women, so it wasn't difficult for me to sell that pair to Sohini for about Rs 1500. Yes, Shylock would have been more lenient. It was the dollar equivalent that I asked for, so you can't blame me for accepting Rs 500 from her for three months. Those days, you could manage an entire month in a hostel for about Rs 1000. Not bad money. Pretty little Sohini was happy, her eyes twinkling through her glasses. Her waist was 28.
I had forgotten about Sohini until today although I remembered my jeans well. A former classmate informed that she passed away recently fighting cancer. Everything came back to me in a flash, her beautiful smile, our little chat about the iconic brand and how we are more American than the other fellow students. How I almost had tears parting with my jeans. Couldn't remember what I did with the money though.
That ill-gotten money has left me morally poorer than I've ever been. Fifteen years later, it was suddenly difficult to look into the mirror today.