25 June 2015
“The saree it is said was born on the loom of a fanciful weaver…
He dreamt of Woman. The shimmer of her tears.
The drape of her tumbling hair. The colours of her many moods.
The softness of her touch. All these he wove together.
He couldn’t stop. He wove for many yards.
And when he was done, the story goes, he sat back and
smiled and smiled and smiled…”
~~ a charming folktale about the origin of the saree!
Yesterday a friend shared an old photograph of three iconic Indian women from a bygone era on her Facebook wall. (Am attaching it at the end of this post) Besides the fact that it was a candid and charming portrayal of the three, it engulfed me with nostalgia for a garment that for me epitomises grace and elegance and defines the Indian woman like no other dress does. It brought back childhood memories of my mother and her circle of friends…the crisp cottons, the swaying chiffons and rustling silks they draped themselves with and their many conversations about the intricacies of the weaves and where they were sourced from. My mother’s generation comfortably carried out all their daily work clothed in a saree. Weather was never a deterrent for them as they had different sarees for the changing seasons. I remember both her as well as my mother-in-law even changing their sarees every evening as they freshened up for their husbands returning from work and the social interactions that followed.
Much has changed since then. For many of my generation the saree has been the chosen dress only for special occasions…you probably wore it for the first time at your ‘school-farewell’ as a sort of mark of your coming of age, at weddings of close relatives and later at your own nuptials. When i started working, i chose to wear sarees for the simple reason that it added to your confidence and gave you an authoritative stature when you went in to teach a class of boisterous teenagers! Somehow, many a times i have felt that the saree in our country seems to add a touch of eminence to your personality…so often have i walked into an office or a bank in one and felt a subtle change, almost a deference in the way in which my work was handled!!
With more and more Indian women choosing to dress in the more comfortable kurtas, salwars and churidars or western trouser suits, one would think the day of the saree were numbered. Nothing could be far from the truth! The younger lot may choose to drape it differently (i knew a lady who could drape it in over twenty different ways!) and up the glamour quotient with designer blouses but the Indian woman’s romance with the saree continues. It remains the worlds oldest surviving unstitched garment and history tells us that the earliest evidence of people wearing it comes to us from the Indus Valley civilisation. It is unique in being the one dress where there is no size zero or size eighteen for one size fits all. It also happens to be a long time favourite staple of Bollywood’s box office successes…think of how many times they have used the heroine singing in a clingy saree in the rain to set their cash registers ringing.
The saree like Draupadi’s unending fabric of time stretches eternally…from our ancient past to a future of endless possibilities.