When I went to Maharaja Fashion and Beauty in Blacktown
I drove around about 20 minutes to find a park.
It was busy on a Saturday afternoon and all I could smell was the sour injera
and smoked chicken of El-Jannah. Oh yeah! They’d just opened
an express one back in Newy, but the portion sizes were queer.
There were some HKs around but I avoided eye contact.
Knew I wasn't from The Area with my Better Read Than Dead branded tote.
I was going to a wedding in Singapore.
Anjali who I had met in Bangkok was getting married –
fancy as Tamil-Sri-Lankan-French wedding.
I just wanted an excuse to wear a sari and the lehenga for the first time.
All the good Brown tailors are out West
and Maharaja Fashion came recommended by my friend Neha.
Outside the halal butcher two old Arab men were having a fight
swinging their hardened arms around their prayer caps.
Hold up, maybe they’re just having a discussion? True ethnics.
In the old arcade leaves of late winter in devotional dance.
I hear the adhan and taste goat dripped biriyani
throughout a mobile repair shop, a dodgy insurance and tax office
with discounted toilet paper piled high.
The Aunty inside Maharaja Fashion
sold ladies suits and artificial jewellery
spoke only Urdu, cornered between piles of cheap fabric.
I squeezed into the choli, smelt like green cardamom.
I tried to explain in English where the blouse needed to be changed.
Aunty nodded, focusing on the sewing machine in front of her
with kajal eyes painted better than mine, like she knew I couldn’t even tie a sari.
I asked for a receipt.
This poem is part of a suite of poems titled How to Wrap a Sari for Beginners.