It’s a sign that winter is coming. Members of the black brigade alight from Transperth buses and disappear into the lengthening shadows on the streets of Victoria Park. They come in different shapes and sizes. Behind the black-coated young man striding swiftly down the road trundles a pardah-clad woman flashing glimpses of psychedelic colour as her robe flaps at her heels. One young woman, impossibly skinny, wearing a mini – rhyme intended – clicks past. Her only concession to colour is the bright (bottled, I’m sure) blond of her hair.
In India, they are marking the start of spring with Holi, the festival of colour. Surely, this means autumn has begun at the bottom of the world? In a month or so, we shall see fall colour in Australia – trees, not people.
I still haven’t figured out the code of black. How is a colour that’s de rigueur for funerals also appropriate wear for weddings, office meetings, and waiting tables? In India, it’s red for weddings and white for funerals. I’m not very sure of the place black has in Indian cultures. I have fallen in with the Australian trend though – sort of. I have the regulation black woollen coat, black shoes, black stockings. I can’t do the black dress though – been there, done that, gave it away with a huge sigh of relief. I have friends who can do the black though – cool, classic, and stylish. It’s not me.
One day last winter, an acquaintance from work ran into me as I was coming up the stairs. “I saw you waiting to catch the bus,” he said. “I thought I recognized your signature red.” I didn’t realize I had a signature at all – coloured or otherwise, or that it was red. It’s just a happy result of my avoidance of black.
I’ve been to the city this afternoon, and I’m on the Transperth bus, on my way home. A woman with long bright red hair and flapping black trench coat gets on. She gets off a few stops later, bat-winging her way down the street. I imagine I will cut quite a different figure when I get off the bus. My cardigan is not designer wear and my black curls are crushed under a beret – beanie. I am, however, wearing them in signature red.
A Happy Holi to my Indian readers and a farewell to summer here in Australia.