Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When fashionable meant wearing a saree

1970s. 1980s. Growing up years. The oil township we grew up in had the privilege of a Club which was the socio cultural meeting point of the Oil Officers. From the weekly Sunday movies and the tombola games to the Mid Rains Ball, the Husband's Dinner, Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and of course the Grand Club Meet.

Each of these occasions meant dressing up.  And in those days, dressing up was either in sarees or in our traditional "mekhela chadars" at times, which is quite similar to a saree.

My mother's  almirah had sarees handing from steel and wooden hangers- crepes, silks, pure silks, benarasis, gorgettes, chiffons amd the daily wear cottons.  When the saree itself was universal, the differentiation and variety came from the fabric and the prints. Plain, printed, painted, embroidered, with "paris" and jaris.

I was unfortunately too young to go to the ball dances at night ( we were allowed only for the jam sessions during the day). But I would stare mesmeraised at my mother as she dressed up for the night. Beautifully made up, bright lipstick, elegant jewellery, yards of silk draped around her, finished off with a fur or woollen stole thrown over one shoulder. She looked so beautiful. Sometimes she would put on an LP record with "english music" and drag my father across the carpet, swaying to the music. Soon they would be synchronising their steps to the notes and looking into each other's eyes.... lost in their own world till my sister or I would jump in between and clamour for a dance with daddy as well:-)

Coming back to sarees, everyone wore one. To a Club which  had sprung out of and continued to be all things western and "british". Swaying to bands that played pop hits, dancing the night away.

Just shows how well our own traditional wear had blended into the environment.

Tosay, a red carpet do means gowns, cocktail dresses or elegant churidars. For most of us.
Some of us  have now relegated these beautiful sarees and "mekhelas" to the wedding season, religious occasions or at least in Assam, to wear at funeral condolences.

My mother left my sister and me a legacy. At least 300 sarees, carefully stored and wore over time. We hardly considered it a legacy. Gave some away. Dumped some in a store room. Packed some in the storage under the bed.

It's time I dusted the cobwebs and took them out.
More than anything else, the memories of the occasions which these sarees have seen will certainly drive some humility into me.


  1. Which oil township was this?

    I grew up in Indian Oil Corporation townships.