Fashionista supplies to disaster areas.
|'It's for charity.' India said, wearing that same puzzled frown she had worn when I said that I would be in hospital during her Run for Pink. She had proffered the idea that I could trot along, still hooked up to an I.V. drip. She was serious. 'A really good cause.' They always were.
'What part of no don't you understand?' She pursed her lips, then wrinkled her nose as I continued. 'Is it the bit where I won't do it, or the bit where it's blindingly inappropriate?' India is mistress of the dismissive sniff.
The charity in question was one of those fly-by-night, one-off responses to a sudden disaster. All the big players were already in the field. Medicin Sans Frontiers, the Red Cross, Oxfam et al. Now the hangers-on were gathering funds to address 'issues' ignored by the big boys. India's lot had named itself 'Dress Up Disaster'. I forebore to call it 'DUD'.
The emergency in question was one of those situations that had been predicted by the experts and ignored by everyone else. A volcano, with one of those long, unspellable names, had been smoking and steaming for weeks. Little dribbles of lava had crept down the flanks, roasting plantations, engulfing farms and villages. At 10:34 a.m., local time, Mount whatever went pop. Or, rather, BOOM!
The central plug blew out, chucking gas, pumice, dust, boulders and lava into the upper atmosphere. The island was demolished. Completely. No one could survive it. Then the tsunami raced across the ocean, swamping nearby islands, drowning holiday beaches farther away, inundating settlements and leaving behind a legacy of bereft, homeless people who had nothing. Except life. And that was being snatched away by injury and disease. Governments and charities stepped up with a global response.
'But what about survivors' guilt?' India had captured an irrational bee to buzz around her bonnet. 'They need cheering up.' I rolled mental eyes. You have just lost everything, your family, friends, livelihood and possessions. You had a right to be depressed. India's answer? Send in the clowns. 'There's nothing like new accessories to cheer a body up.' I suppose, with a pinch of salt the size of Everest, she had a point. Sort of. New clothes was about as far as I was willing to go.
'Accessories?' Why did I have to ask?
'Nice shoes with matching handbags and so forth.' This is the woman who is a vegetarian. She loves her chicken. Apparently chickens are not meat because they are fowl and live on grain. Therefore they are walking, clucking lumps of wheat. When I pointed out that cows are herbivores and therefore are walking, mooing lumps of hay, she looked down her nose at me and remarked that she did not eat grass. I clamped my lips on the observation that wheat is a grass.
Thus DUD was born. To raise money to send trinkets, like handbags, high heel shoes and designer hats to people living in destitution. To cheer them up. It was a mental health thing.
'All you have to do is to get a few sponsors and enter a race.' She was blind to my open mouth. 'We'll put it all on line and get oodles of cash.' I became aware of my head shaking slowly. 'It'll go viral!'
'A race?' My voice stuttered high up in the octaves.
'In high heels.' I held my breath, how bad would it get? 'A triathlon.' Her brain cell had seized on the idea. 'A relay race in high heels and delightful millinary, passing on handbags.'
The first event was held in a big city park. India had contacts. The organizers of Run for Pink lent her an inflatable starting gate. Local businesses set up stalls and sold things, food and drink vendors rolled up with their vans, ready to flood the place with greasy smells and litter. She persuaded a brass band to play and bullied fashionistas into a catwalk show. The sun shon. There were high heel races. Fancy hats sailed away on the breeze. There were twisted ankles. She raised oodles of cash.
DUD Racing hit the news. There were DUD races all over the country. The whole thing went viral as the social media went crazy for it. DUD Racing on foot, on bicycles, on horses, in swimming pools, across muddy fields, up mountains and around cities. Gucci handbags. Jimmy Wotsit shoes. Regal hats. Or cheap knock-offs. Dress Up Disaster became one of the big boy charities.
DUD never did send fashionable accessories to disaster zones. India was eased out but her philosophy of cheering up survivors still underpins the charity. They move in once the situation is stabilised and provide services that make life more bearable, like mobile cinemas, alongside health care and education.
As for India, her latest idea is to raise funds to provide make-up to impoverished women in the Andes. She has an idea. It is something to do with buckets of paint, silhouettes and graffiti.
I am keeping a very low profile.