My first ever memory of a sari is that of watching my nani (grandmother) getting dressed to go to school. I was probably eight or nine and we were living with her when my dad was posted in Kargil. She was a Sanskrit teacher.
Every morning, she would do her chores like clockwork. And then, within no time, she would transform from her dreary-eyed self to this smart, professional, beautiful woman who was determined to take on the world. It was like as soon as she donned that sari, she became invincible. Over the years, many things changed – her health, her job, her working hours, but the one thing that remained constant was her stiff cotton sari.
My mother’s is the second most striking memory of a woman in a sari. Seeing her get dressed for all those Army parties was a mesmerising sight. She had to get her pleats and palla just right and in an instant she transformed from being my mom to this stunning diva who would make heads turn. I remember waiting for invitations to parties just so I could see her getting dressed. Over the years, for both of us, the sari got associated to special events and parties and we would take out our best drapes just for these occasions. The rest of the time, these saris would stay carefully folded in dark almirahs.
In over two-and-a-half decades of my existence, I’ve seen many women in saris – crisp and soft, simple and extravagant; with children in their arms and brooms and ladles in their hands; riding bicycles and driving cars; who were determined activists and college lecturers; glamorous actresses and skilled dancers – all powerful and going about their business nonchalantly.
Recently, I have started to wonder why this all-encompassing garment has been restricted to wedding functions and graduation ceremonies by many of our generation. I am not pointing blame (being a part of this brigade myself), I am just questioning how the sari came to be known as restrictive when it has been a wardrobe staple for women across generations.
This post is a celebration of women who are questioning the same idea. Modern, intellectual, working women, who believe in the timelessness of the sari; women who wear these drapes for more than just special events. This post is an attempt to figure out what the sari means to them and how it shapes and affects their life; it is an attempt to figure out how, despite the frivolity of fashion, this nine-yard drape has managed to survive the test of time.
Here are their stories:
–– Sonika, History teacher
The more women I talk to, the more I am amazed by the depth that a sari weaves within its threads. Every sari has a story – a story that weaves together its maker, wearer and the various generations through which it is handed down. It is not just a fashion statement, a sari is the keeper of tradition, culture, and most importantly love.
If you have stories to share about your saris, do make sure to drop in a comment. I would love to read them! Meanwhile, you can read my last post here.
Until next time,