My ebbing hobby

My ebbing hobby

Admiring, critically assessing and evaluating saris on mannequins, and even on live models has been a harmless pastime for me. The last often elicits comments like, “A single design covers the sari! Big designs are not for petite women like her!”; “Her extra-grand sari looks out of context”; or, pointing to the elephants and camels lining the border of a sari worn by my slim niece, Gayatri, “Isn’t the herd too heavy for you?”; or “Looted the Lalbagh? Too bad!” to my friend Naina who wore a sari with floral designs. Functions, markets and parks provided much fodder for my pastime. The traditional attire offered enough scope by way of design, cost, materials and regional varieties.

But it was when I stumbled out of the noisy stuffiness of a sprawling mall’s video game parlour — where my grandson, Aditya, was playing as his parents watched over — that I sensed my pasttime slipping by. Ambling around the corridors, I could observe only a couple of sari-clad women. Shops displayed tees, gowns, half-skirts, cold-shoulders, leggings, tops, pants, half-pants, shirts and salwars...but rarely saris. This reflected the prevailing social trend.

With a decline in my outings, the chances of flaunting my saris had also reduced. Except for an exquisite sari or two picked up from my collection by an artistically inclined youngster for some ‘ethnic day’, the rest continue to yawn in my cupboard! This necessitated an exercise to revamp the wardrobe to make way for new ones and create ‘finger space’ for pulling them out without toppling the pile. Labelling piles as ‘in-use’ and ‘not-in-use’, it was planned that the latter would be given away to the needy.

But with all the emotional attachment that saris carry, the ‘in-use’ pile kept growing with each sari being identified with the giver, event when first worn, occasion for buying, and, for exceptional designs, colour, quality and ethnic connection. Last gift from a favourite uncle; one the brother-in-law gifted on his only daughter’s wedding (with the chance of another gift being slender), my wedding saris, mother’s heavy century-old nine-yard wedding sari (too heavy to be lifted, let alone be draped but nevertheless, a family heirloom), first sari gifted by the husband — the list was long.

If segregation was a difficult process, giving them away was excruciating! Who are the ‘needy’ in need of saris? “No saris, please,” is a common refrain even from maids, babysitters, cooks, vendors, while inmates of old-age homes prefer nighties, churidars, etc. Traditional ways of preserving grand old saris by converting them into cushion covers, duvets, shopping bags, half-saris that teenage girls can wear have all become out-dated. Yet, the tradition of gifting them to elders during family functions still continues, and thanks to the big families I belong to on both sides, I collect a handful every marriage season!

With due apologies to this one gifter, I recently re-gifted their sari but not before clicking a picture of it and saving it as a memory. A modern twist to the problem of plenty!