Tag Archives: india

How to: wear a salwar kameez

The salwar kameez is a tunic, pants and scarf outfit that is worn by a large number of women in India. With the exception of the younger generation in big cities like Bangalore, if the women aren’t wearing saris then they are wearing a salwar.

The suit is worn throughout India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and is thought to have originated during the Mongol rule of the area. It is incredibly comfortable in the heat, and very modest.

The suit consists of three different items of clothing:


Kurta: A tunic with slits on the side to your hips, and can be worn long (shin/knee length) or short (thigh length). The sleeves also vary – from sleeveless, to short sleeve, elbow length or full length sleeve.

Anarkali: A dress-like top, which has a reasonably tight/fitted bodice and then a flared knee/shin length skirt (which is sewn from multiple panels depending on the region it originates from: sometimes as few as 8, or as many as 80.


Churidar: similar to leggings, but more loose fitting and longer, with bunching (churis) at the ankle.

Salwar: loose pants fitting pants, with a straight cut leg, ending at the ankle.

Pattiala: baggy loose pants with pleats at the top, so the pants fall like balloons over your legs.


Dupatta: scarf/shawl worn around the neck, covering your chest and back over your shoulders. Traditionally this is a huge shawl, quite wide and long. But there is also the shorter, narrower scarf.

Now the salwar kameez can be bought as a set, or as separate items. The trick is to figure out how much colour and pattern you are comfortable with, because it can be quite extreme.

If you are diving in and creating your own ensemble, its important to remember a few rules:

  • Kurtas above the knee are to be worn with loose pants (preferably pattialas)
  • Anarkali and kurtas below the knee can be worn with anything, but look better with churidas
  • It is easiest to start with a single coloured kurta, and then match it with pants with a pattern in a complementary colour
  • The dupatta must match the pants you are wearing first, and then secondly match the kurta
  • Wearing three items all with different patterns can be a disaster, so if you want that much pattern it is best to look for a pre-made set.
Me, wearing a kurta, churrdar and dupatta

Me, wearing a kurta, churrdar and scarf dupatta

It can be a lot of fun experimenting with the different patterns and colours that are avaliable. However it can be very easy to end up with a lot of different items that can only be worn in one or two ways. The most productive shopping expedition I ever had was one where I had a patterned dupatta, and I found two kurta and three pairs of pants that I could wear with it. So that equates to 6 different outfits.

photo 3 photo photo

It is fun.


How to: buy a ticket on Indian Rail

Despite the size , with more than 10,000 trains running everyday, in a country of 1.4 billion people, it is still quite difficult to get a train ticket. Allocated tickets usually sell out days or even weeks before the date of the journey. Luckily, in order to make it a bit more possible to get a ticket, there are several ways of ensuring your place on a train.


Three ways to buy a ticket

In person – it is possible to go to any railway station and purchase a ticket over the counter from the advance reservation desk. You must fill out a paper form with your personal details (name, age, phone number), as well as the train number and ticket type. This is good because you can pay in cash, however expect to spend a whole afternoon lining up to obtain a ticket: these offices are very crowded, and queues are not strictly followed.

Through an agent – there are hundreds of travel agencies in India who will help you to book train (and bus) tickets, for a commission. Travel agents can get special access to the railways booking facility, and there is a special allocation of tickets provided for them to access.

Online – train tickets can be booked through the IRCTC website, you just need to register your details and obtain a username/password. However you need a functioning Indian mobile number in order to do this, and you can only pay using Indian debit/credit cards.


Three types of tickets

Reserved – reserved tickets give you an allocated seat/berth, and are available (theoretically) up until a few hours before the train departs. However, there is a limited number of these available, because no train can be infinitely long. So often these sell out days or weeks in advance of the travel time.

Mostly when I have tried to book a ticket, I have booked an unconfirmed ticket, which means you are put on a waiting list. When you try to book the ticket it will have something like “CKWL6/WK5”, which means there is a wait list of 5 people before you. This means that when people with allocated seats cancel or change theirs leading up to the journey, your place in the wait list should decrease until eventually (hopefully) your ticket is confirmed and you are allocated a seat. If your ticket isn’t confirmed by the time the train departs, it is possible to get a refund on your ticket up until 24 hours after the train departure time. So it is a bit of a gamble booking a wait listed ticket – although if the gamble doesn’t pay off you won’t lose your money, and you have other options.

Tatkaal – the Tatkaal scheme is a last minute release of tickets at 10am the day before a particular journey. These are released online and can be purchased by yourself or through an agent. These tickets are more expensive than a general release ticket, and there are generally not very many of them released.

Be warned: trying to buy these tickets online is worse than trying to buy festival tickets (think Splendour in the Grass on Moshtix), as there are a easily a few million people trying to access tickets for hundreds of different trains on the same server. So the connection drops out and the process needs to be repeated several times in the hope of buying a ticket.

I spent one hour trying to book a ticket to Bangalore once – I had to repeat the process several times before I managed to pay successfully and obtain a ticket. The only reassuring factor was that if I was feeling this frustrated, then so were a million other people.

However this is your best bet at getting an allocated ticket at short notice for a long journey, so if you’re desperate to buy a train ticket, settle in for a wait online!

Unreserved – these tickets can be purchased on the day of travel, and cost less than 100rs. An unreserved ticket allows you onto the train, and once on the train you wander through the carriages looking for an unoccupied seat. Once you find one, sit down and look like you own that space so that no-one else tries to take it. When the ticket inspector comes by, you can buy a ticket for that particular seat if it is free, and simply pay the difference in fare to the inspector. If that particular seat is not unoccupied for your journey, then the inspector carries a print out of the passenger manifest, and they can look to see if there is another available seat on the train.

If there are no seats available to purchase, there is always an unreserved carriage on every train. Although I’m not game enough to go in there: its usually packed full of (mostly) men, and I think that I would be too much of a novelty to handle. There is also a women’s unserved carriage, but it also usually incredibly crowded. So, depending on how adventurous you are, and how much luggage you have, you can keep wandering the train trying to avoid inspectors, or sit in the unreserved carriages.

These tickets are best for short journeys, as it is less likely that you will find an available seat the longer your journey. Especially not advised if you are hoping to sleep during the journey.





My boss and his wife visit their astrologer regularly, and consult him on most of the decisions they make in their lives.

Their astrologer told them that the house that they were living in was causing them problems in their business and personal lives, because of its physical location and negative energy in the house. So they decided to move, and after three weeks of searching finally found a nice apartment, in a nice quiet neighbourhood, and paid a deposit on the the rent.

So they gave four weeks notice in their current apartment, and after three weeks they went back to the astrologer to find out a date for them to be able to move into the new apartment – an auspicious day that will start them off on the right foot in the new house. But the astrologer did some calculations about the new apartment’s location, altitude, and outlook, and told them that this apartment was no good either. It would bring them negative energy as well, and no problems would be solved. So with two days to go in the old apartment, they needed to find a new place to stay.

After a morning of confusion and problem solving, they decided that there was nothing to be done but call the landlord, apologise and tell him to keep the deposit, and find somewhere else to move to in two days.

So they called the landlord, and told him their dilemma. Luckily, he had another apartment in the same building. Because it was on a different floor and faced a different direction, their astrologer said that this would be suitable.

And they moved the next day.