Saree State of Affairs

Rachna Singh
Saturday, 13 October 2018

We, women have two problems — one is that we don’t have enough sarees, and two, we don’t have enough occasions to wear those sarees

We, women have two problems — one is that we don’t have enough sarees, and two, we don’t have enough occasions to wear those sarees.

‘I don’t have a thing to wear for Navratri!’
‘But, didn’t you buy six sarees last month?’
‘Are you crazy? Those are for Sweety’s wedding in February.’
So, we go saree-shopping again. On the occasions for which the sarees have been procured, we rue the fact that there are not many occasions to wear sarees. 
‘The last time I wore this was five years back. No occasions only, yaar.’

The root of the problem is that we don’t wear sarees as often as our mothers did. They had different stacks of sarees for different parts of the day. There were sarees for different seasons, festivals, local and national events. They were kept in different trunks.

We, on the other hand, wear clothes that our daughters wear. We are still in jeans, tank tops and kurtas that, of late, come with several options of pyjamas: cigarette pants, pallazos, churidar, legging, three-fourths, ankle-length, 2/9th of ankle length and so on.

Sometimes, we wear the exact same dress as our daughter’s and take a selfie with her. When (cataract-ridden) friends comment, ‘Wow, sisters or what?’ on that photo, we emoji-blush and reply, ‘Come on, don’t lie’ even though we are jumping with joy on our arthritic knees.

In our times, getting married meant that the bride had to have a saree from each state of India in her trousseau. Union territories also. This was as important as checking whether the groom had a job or not. Online shopping being non-existent then, it meant going to the shop, with more friends in tow than the number of sarees needed, and driving the sales-man to the brink of a nervous breakdown.
 
The man would be standing there, on the spotless-white-sheet-draped mattress, draping sarees on himself, more than all the women of his family would have draped, collectively, in a year. The red Banarsi, the blue super-net, the green georgette, the yellow crepe. The same ritual — drape, hold the pallu over his left hand, jut his hip out, seductively and ask, ‘Yeh waali?’

We would promptly reject it because it had badi booti/chhoti booti/tilting booti/straight booti/had a booti/did not have a booti. And, we’d tell him to show something with badi booti/chhoti booti/tilting booti/straight booti/with a booti/without a booti — that is — the bride-to-be and her five friends, each one stating their choice clearly. That night, he would sleep fitfully, dreaming of a world without women. Or bootis.

Today, online sites, creatively named like Olive Autorickshaw or Shaded Shipwreck, have skinny saree-draped models springing out of our phone screens to grab our eyeballs. We scroll till our thumbs are sore! We add some to our ‘cart’. After some tense moments, we remove them. We have nightmares of our neighbour buying exactly the one we want to buy. We wake up in cold sweat. We check her page to gauge her mood, recent choices of colour, the events coming up in her life, her recent fashion leanings, beating every artificial intelligence tool out there. Exhausted, we finally drift into a fitful slumber, dreaming of that hand-crafted jaamdani.
With chhoti bootis.
(Best-selling author Rachna Singh is a sit-down comedienne)

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