A ‘Soree’ Affair

An edited version of this article was published in the ‘Humour’ column of the November 4th, 2018 print and online editions of Sunday Herald, the Sunday supplement of Deccan Herald. While you see the print version above, the online version is linked here – Here’s the ‘saree’ state.

– Updated with the print publication information on Nov 11, 2018

As the wedding season approaches, a frenetic shopping pace sets in. Owners of silk saree shops in the by lanes of bustling Chikpete and swanky M G Road alike in Namma Bengaluru, rub their hands in anticipation of brisk business.

The very ‘discerning’ amongst silk saree shoppers, wouldn’t be caught dead in anything other than the trendiest silken gossamer weaves. So like-minded female friends and relatives gang-up, hire a shared car, and drive down all the way to sweltering Kanchipuram for a marathon ‘saree-picking’ day trip.

The other sort who go saree-picking to Kanchipuram are harried parents of brides and grooms-to-be with stretched wedding budgets, a long list of female relatives to appease with gifts of exquisite silk sarees, and a hope and a prayer that they find the perfect saree at a bargain for everyone on their gifting list.

Image Source: Durgarao Vuddanti via Wikimedia Commons (CC By-2.0)

A wedding is in the offing in my extended family and preparations are on for the desired ‘look’ for the various ceremonies — pre, main and post wedding. For the uninitiated, one zeroes-in on the ‘look’ after much online research on the latest trends in make-up, jewellery and haute couture inspired by the reigning female movie stars and models.

A well-meaning female relative (WMFR) recently queried me on my own preparations, and went on to dole-out generous wedding attire tips. Here’s a sampling!

WMFR: Buy a good saree. Wear big pieces of jewellery. Do you have big jhumkies?

Me, caught totally unawares and feeling a little poor: No, not big, medium-sized.

WMFR, consolingly: That’s fine. Wear them. Pin your hair back for the Muhurtha.

Me, a little miffed: Errr…..I prefer leaving my hair lose.

WMFR, authoritatively: You should leave it lose for the reception. Pin it back for the Muhurtha so the jhumkies are seen. Wear the gold waist chain your grandmother gifted you.

Me, wearily: Oh, that’ll be too showy and I am worried it may fall-off without my knowledge.

WMFR, now chiding: When will you ever wear them? You should on such occasions!

This seemingly innocuous but unsolicited advice probably has its basis in the fact that I am marked in family circles for repeating my silks on more than one occasion and not adorning myself with ‘enough’ jewellery.

Now what defines enough is beyond the comprehension of my silks and jewellery-agnostic mind.

I am frequently in awe of the elephantine memories of well-meaning relatives who cry out in utter dismay, “Oh, why are you wearing the same saree you wore for your son’s Naamakarana?? Have you not bought yourself a new silk saree in all these years?”

I try to recollect if I had indeed worn the same saree at my son’s Naamakarana 8 years ago!

And if I am attired in a brand new saree, “Couldn’t you have bought a grander saree?”

“You should’ve paired this necklace with a heavy, long chain. This is too simple.”

While I like dressing-up for occasions, I don’t fancy turning myself into a veritable walking, talking Christmas tree!

As a Software Marketer for 15 years, I did turn-up well-dressed to work as my job necessitated it. Now that I have little or no association with the corporate world, I minimize new purchases while making sure I am well turned-out for occasions.

I have a healthy respect for individual shopping and dressing-up preferences. Nevertheless, silk sarees cost an arm and a leg, and I am no Imelda Marcos to never repeat a saree, a piece of gold jewellery or an accessory after having paid through my nose for the purchase.

To that end, I’d rather invest in a cornucopia of far more personally fulfilling pursuits such as treating myself to a pair of new running shoes, a stash of good books, heading-off for a holiday in the mountains to wake up to the calls of the Malabar Whistling Thrush, saving-up for the next project on our little farm, or indulging my weakness for yet another alluring piece of antique Chettinad furniture that dear old Palani of Pondicherry faithfully apprises me of.

And then there is the gnawing niggle in a tiny corner of my mind that pricks me of the cruel origins of silk sarees, though I still have silks in my wardrobe, some recent, and I admit to still wearing them.

Of late, I find myself increasingly drawn to rich-hued handloom cotton sarees of more peaceful origins, painstakingly created by traditional weavers. A nicely tailored Kalamkari blouse to go along and one is most tastefully attired!

With renewed inspiration, I pull out my purportedly out-dated, but in my eyes, resplendent silk wedding sarees from 15 years ago. They still look gorgeous in deep maroon and rich purple. With a bit of airing, ironing and trendy new blouses, these ‘vintage’ beauties should help me hold my own at the niece’s wedding.

As for the scrutiny and cloaked remarks, I have grown a thicker skin. I will never be sorry for not emptying my pockets on a new silk saree.

And why, oh why, just to leave it vegetating in my wardrobe for several years after one wear!

Link to the published version of this article in Sunday Herald, the Sunday supplement of Deccan Herald: Here’s the ‘saree’ state