On my second day in Beijing, a member of the foreign affairs department of my office said to me rather gleefully, “Today you are looking more Chinese!”
I didn’t know whether I should take that statement as a compliment or as something that was being said to me sarcastically, given my Indian birth and Chinese ancestry. When I looked quizzically and queried, “…Mmmmm…more Chinese? What is that supposed to mean?”
I was told. “On the day you reached and even yesterday you looked very colourful…But today, you are sober like the Chinese…”
On the day I arrived, I was wearing white slacks and a brightly embellished aqua blue kurta with an equally bejeweled pair of Kolhapuri sandals. And, on my first day at work, I topped up my rather formal (and sober) outfit with a deep purple sweater, hurriedly borrowed from my friend Marisha Thakur, after I was caught unaware by Beijing's wind.
On Day 3, when I was told I "looked more Chinese", I was wearing a grey sweater.
Yes, the Chinese may be a little less sober than the Americans when it comes to the colour of their work clothes, but they are still not half as adventurous as Indians.
Their choice can be traced back to their history. First, emperors and kings dictated what they wore (during the Sui Dynasty, in the 500’s AD, the emperor ordered his subjects to wear only blue or black, while royalty were permitted to wear colourful clothing). Later, during the Cultural Revolution, most people wore military uniforms as a symbol of the revolution.
I guess I should take the statement of me “looking more Chinese” as an indication that the person who said it to me, embraced me as his own. I am happy, if that was the case.
However, that will not change my choice in colours...I am happy to "look" Indian :):):)