The saree has always managed to intrigue me, albeit for myriad reasons. Having grown up amidst women who are saree-clad almost all the time, I have always wondered how human beings manage to get around that nine yards of fabric, without being caught in its endless length and innumerable folds. Given the very length of the garment, my first not-so-creative visualisation of someone attempting to wear one is that of a woman, panting and perspiring, holding one end of the fabric in one hand and a huge safety-pin in another and doing at least half a dozen rounds of the saree frantically. Let me explain the stupid thought – what else can one do with nine yards of fabric on a single human body?
Also, another reason why I sub-consciously developed the saree-o-phobia has been the preparation time involved. Just like ludicrously complex food recipes that involve more time required for preparation than for the process of cooking itself, saree-wearing involves a huge creative strain on the head. You know, as a youth who has left no stone unturned to shirk responsibility on most occasions, I have almost always attempted to steer clear of wearing sarees, in a futile attempt to avoid too much strain on my walnut of a brain. I still remember my cupboard at teenage – cobwebs in the sides and clothes everywhere else, arranged in a manner that was sure to cause an avalanche the moment the cupboard door was pulled open. To avoid that overflow, I would open the door just a little, slide my skilful hand inside and pull out a pair of jeans and a shirt from some remote corner. Yes, that would be my attire for the day. Period.
And think about the saree – how does one expect me to think so much as to the colour of the blouse, the length and shade of the petticoat (let me tell you that it’s not all that ‘petty’ after all – a mismatched one can ruin your appearance beyond repair!) and a well-ironed or starched or polished or whatever saree. It’s like so many different pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to complete the picture! There’s so much to do in life than think of these things, right?
Despite the fact that sarees (on other women) have always left me spell-bound with the elegance and sweet feminism they seem to offer, but one thing that I have always admitted to myself is that MY association with the garment is meant to be rather limited.
And just like my unknown fear for driving a car, even the saree business has given me jitters almost all my life. And now it stares at me yet again!
I am supposed to teach a class shortly and I am told that I must ‘ideally’ wear a saree to class. Are you kidding, I first thought. With long, careless steps I walk with, something as delicate and feminine as saree suddenly seems so incompatible. Given the rather excessive imaginary skills I am blessed with, my mind began creating images of myself standing in the front of the class of seventy-five, tightly-wrapped in a saree, gasping for breath, when I take my first step forward and fall flat on my face, feet up in the air. ‘Aaaaarrgh’, I shout out. I can’t let this happen to myself. Never. But saree I must wear.
Thus begins consultation and discussion. I begin talking to people here and there – by people I mean women. These include mom, mother-in-law, aunts and other acquaintances, who by now, have learnt to tame the saree-demon. Practice sessions are held, blouses stitched, petticoats pooled and finally, looks like I’m all set.
As a researcher, I like to conduct pilot-tests you know, or simply trial runs to see if everything is in place. In line with that, I decide to wear a saree to a Literature festival a week ago. And lo! It looks fabulous, except the fact that it took me some hundred and five minutes (that is nearly one hour and forty-five minutes) to wear it in its entirety. At the end of it all, I stare at myself in the full-length mirror, eyes stoned, fingers red and sore with the brutal encounter with safety pins of all sizes and the mind, clouded with confusion, thinking about the number and location of all safety pins the entire saree entails.
Anyway, I’m ready and trust me, I have never felt this feminine ever in my life. It is a moment of self-discovery and even more, a sense of victory over an unknown fear that I had been harbouring for such a long time in life, only rationalising my own stupidity with foolish explanations.
After all the cribbing I have done on this post, let me end by telling you that it’s funny how my brush with this new chapter of saree-wearing helped me question my own beliefs about beauty, feminism and one’s own sense of ability. Even when wearing a saree may make you think, brood and plan, the outcome is certainly worth the time. The nine yards may seem too much, but where else can one expect such leeway as to decide on your particular look, knot and style?
By the way, I am all set to wear them now. Thankfully, one more phobia done with.
Image taken from Google images.