Draped in Questions


Sari is said to be one of the most complicated clothing that can actually be worn in the most simplest manner. Many who wear it deem it as nearly impossible to learn to perfect. Some find it difficult to “handle”. Some are selective with the kind of texture they prefer on the six-nine yard clothing. Many like themselves in it but do not have the time or energy to master its demands. To each their own.

I was never fascinated by the sari. This despite the fact that I grew up in a household full of different types of saris, a wide variety of colours and an exclusive blouse bag, for crying out loud! My mother has worn a sari practically all her life—she began wearing a half sari at the age of 14 and once she draped the sari as an 18-year-old, the only time she abandoned it is since then is when she hit the gym to exercise in a salwar kameez (though she is forever shy to embrace the stark enemy of the sari) or when she went trekking owing to some pilgrimage or religious commitment that required long hours of walking (everything is fair in love, war and God). I grew up watching ma wear sari with such ease that I was put to shame when I realized I took longer to wear my clothes. My father folded saris, ranging from chiffon to cotton to synthetic, with such speed that I wondered how long has he been “practicing” such a difficult task.

A Kancheevaram silk sari

A Kancheevaram silk sari

As a young girl trying to embrace my “inherent” femininity, I did experiment with my dupattas draping it like a temporary sari but I never cared enough or had the patience to surround my body with a six yard long piece of clothing. It looked complicated—the way ma’s fingers intertwined with the folds, the way she made her pallu, I was just thankful for my PJs!

I was 19 when I wore a sari for the first time as an adult. As a 19-year-old trying to juggle with the pallu of a pattu sari at a cousin sister’s wedding, that several pairs of eyes had carefully devoured, I realized that consciously or unconsciously, I had openly declared a transformation—that I wasn’t a girl anymore, I was embarking upon “womanhood” (whatever that meant).

It was a blink-and-miss opportunity for me to even contemplate on the enormity (if any) of my decision to wear a sari. Several weddings and other “occasions” (read: excuse to wear a sari) happened afterwards and I think I wore it again maybe once or twice. In the meanwhile, I was beginning to pay more attention to my mother’s sari collection, how she maintained them, what colours she chose and the story that each of her possessed sari told. I began taking interest in these stories and began experimenting with the long clothing. Ma was secretly happy with me “embracing my womanhood” by gradually developing an interest in wearing saris. I don’t know how “womanly” this desire was but I simply decided to learn a little more about the so-called complicated piece of clothing. It seemed like an interesting puzzle to solve.

I took almost a year to understand the art of wearing a sari. During this time, I loved experimenting with any sari I could beg, borrow or steal. I played with its length. I experimented with different styles. I made mistakes with the folds. I angered dad every time I did not fold a sari after literally having played with it. But I finally felt I could drape myself with the sari without any external help. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough to be public and comfortable enough for me to stay put.

They say you look more mature in a sari. They say you look a “certain age” when you wear a sari. But I have simply looked it as yet another piece of clothing that covers exactly those areas of my body that I wish to cover and reveal exactly those that I wish to flaunt. At the most basic level, it is just another attire that one can choose to wear. Anytime. Anywhere.

Perhaps, the world doesn’t look at it so simply. Every time I have worn a sari since I came to terms with it, I have involuntarily invited a standard bunch of questions. Is it your birthday? Anniversary? No? Then, what’s the occasion? Something special today? No? Then what the heck are you doing wearing a sari in the middle of the day/night?  Perhaps these stray of questions are also linked to my marital status (I am unmarried).

It is amazing how, in today’s world, wearing a sari invites so many questions. Wearing a sari also invites yet another standard response: “Looking so good beta! Ab toh shaadi kar hi lo!” implying that the so-called level of maturity that you display while draping the daring sari is a reflection of your marriage clock ticking. A few decades ago, sari (for women) in traditional households was a compulsion. Today, it’s more of a choice, perhaps even a reflection of one’s lifestyle, if one could argue it that way. But, for an unmarried woman who chooses to wear a sari on an “occasion-less” day, the experience can be extremely exhausting. It’s just a piece of clothing. Let’s leave it at that, shall we? 🙂


 

This post was originally published on Campus Diaries

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