Friday, September 24, 2010

Salvaging my Saree Dreams

My favourite game when I was young was to play Teacher Teacher. The ruler in my hand and the chalk with which I wrote happily on the living room walls did not charm me as much as the saree I wrapped clumsily around myself. It was the high point of my make believe world of teaching.

There was something about the saree when we were young. Everyone wore them. Chiffons for the daytime, crepes and silks for social evenings, Kanjeevarams and Kotkis for parties. And lovely printed cottons for everyday.

My ma studiously wore her sarees after the latest Bollywood fashion, showcased in our regular movie shows in Janata or Jasoda Talkies in Digboi. The tight wrapped around Sadhana and Babita style without pleats, the Mumtaz chiffons, the Jaya Bhaduri demure cottons.

Durga Pujas in Shantipara where we had khichri and labra bhaji was a fashion show of beautiful taats, kanthas, Igatpuris as the aunties, specially the Bengali aunties looked so gorgeous in crisp and crackling new sarees. The Assamese and non Bengali aunties also wore equally beautiful sarees, though not always new, making the entire puja pandal a bevy of colours, almost breaking into a riot.

I loved wearing a saree, so what if I was just eight or nine. I felt grown up. I felt matured and I felt beautiful. I would run my hands across Ma's saree collection in her cupboard and dream of owning those oneday. Once in a while, I would wear a saree for an hour or so on a Sunday and my dad would have tears in his eyes. He thought his little girl was "growing up".

Today I have all of Ma's sarees- a legacy she left for me. I have all the means to buy the best of sarees. Yet I don't end up wearing them as often as I would have liked to. In fact, I hardly wear them. "I can't manage", "I work long hours" " I will look odd in a party"" what's the occasion?" "I will wear it for someone's wedding or diwali"- these are the demons in my mind. They shock me at times.

I realise that somewhere with our growing up, we have also let go of a lot of our simple desires, simple beauty codes. We have moved on to bigger and more fashionable wear and why not? It is about being comfortable in what we wear and what we like wearing.

But somewhere, when I look at Ma's cupboard and the sarees that lie unworn and folded, I wistfully remember my "teacher teacher" days. And hope that I can drop off all my inhibitions and drape the gorgeous folds around me again.


  1. Babita
    love this post...One of things I missed when I lived in US and Singapore was wearing my sari collection which are more prized than all the other outfits I own.
    ...A few weeks ago,was reading Annie Zaidi's book Known Turf, one of the chapters captures the plight of Benarasi weavers.,..I wished I could buy all the sarees they make...

    Here is a verse that I wrote a few months ago which I think resonates with your writing

    I pack for my cousin's wedding~
    Each sari I fold unfolds imprints~
    Of blessings; of approving glances~
    Of warm embraces and doting pride in their eyes~
    My Grandmothers! My Ajjis!

  2. thanks so much for your comment sudha

  3. Loved this. Took me back to my childhood memories. When mom went to work, I would try and clumsily wear one of her sarees and throw a bag on my shoulders and pretend I'm going to office too. I would try and imagine what she would be doing and try to act it out. I wanted t be just like her ( I still do)
    Miss those days