The other day my 4-year-old asked me why I don’t dress more like her friend’s mom. Surprised and a little offended, I asked her what was wrong with the way I dress.
“But Amma,” she says matter-of-factly “Arhaan’s mother wears saree!”
And there you have it, folks. Even a child understands the appeal of classic attire that somehow makes women look elegant, dignified, and sexy all at once. Whether you hate it or you love it, sarees are an inevitable part of the lives of most Malayali women. I might be wrong, but I think there are a few sarees that most women end up wearing at least once in their lifetime.
Your makeshift childhood saree
If you’re a girl (or boy) and you didn’t dress up like your mom when you were little, was your childhood even “awesome”? And the best part is that it didn’t even have to be a real saree. Any piece of fabric like bed sheet, dupatta, table cloth, lungi – anything goes. With an array of sisters constantly on the lookout for someone to be subject to their make-over sessions, getting decked up like a bride in a makeshift saree was a common affair for me as a child. And well, to be honest, I loved every minute of it.
Your actual first saree
For many of my friends, the first saree that they’ve bought is usually for the teacher’s day/farewell day saree in Class 12th. Many of them just borrowed one of their mom’s old sarees. In any case, it is usually a big deal. This might also be the day that your dad looks at you with that look in his tear-filled eyes that translates to “My little girl.. how did she turn into a woman so fast?” while your mom is probably praying that you manage to keep the saree on intact until the end of the day, as you waddle away like a duck trying to figure out how to walk gracefully while all that fabric keeps trying to trip you over. My first ever saree was bright chilli red one that blended into a black border. I remember how my mom and I spent all night sticking fake diamantes stones onto the pallu because that was the trend then.
Your college fest saree
Probably your first attempt at adorning this exasperating attire by yourself, the college fest saree will make you feel like a grown woman. If you stayed in a hostel, then you’ll know that the preps begin days before the event – matching jewellery has to be hunted down, the right shoes would be borrowed, the right hairstyle needs to be assessed. And of course, procuring at least 20 dozen safety pins.
There will always be that one girl in the hostel who is a pro at saree draping – whose room will be filled with girls dressed in just the blouse and underskirt waiting patiently for the maestro to do her magic. The special thing about the college fest saree is that no matter how much you deny it, there is always that someone in college whose eye you’re hoping to catch with your super feminine saree.
The saree you wore at your sibling’s wedding
If your sister or brother got married at a time when you were old enough for sarees, then this one is an important one. As the sister of the bride or groom, you are literally the supporting actor in this whole affair. Everyone wants to know who the kalyana chekkan’s or kalyana pennu’s sister is, that is the next most eligible girl in the market. While I was still in the pattu pavada stage for my eldest sister’s wedding, when my second sister’s wedding rolled out, I wore my very first pattu saree and totally won over all the ammayis in the area. It’s amazing how this 6 yard of silk can somehow instantly bring about an increase in your level of confidence.
The saree you wore to ‘Ethnic day’ in office
By this time, you’re probably an adult living far from home, in which case you can get more experimental with your saree and more importantly blouse choices. There aren’t any nosy relatives around to gawk at your super low cut blouse. I won the best-dressed award at my ethnic day in office, much to my mom’s disbelief and that’s become a story I like to tell whenever I get the chance.
Your wedding saree
Okay, so this one is a big one. During my mom’s generation, the bride usually had zero say in her choice of attire on her wedding day. It would be purchased by the groom’s family and delivered to her on the morning of the wedding. But now “kalayna saree edukaal” has been added to the list of newly added ‘chadangukal’ that take place before a wedding. It’s usually a long affair that involves posing awkwardly on a podium while beaming salesgirls wrap sarees that are more expensive than a flat-screen TV over you in front of an audience (your family as well as random people in the store) stare at you. Opinions will fly all over the place and you might end up wanting to pull out all your hair. But when you finally hold that saree in your hands, the one that has been chosen to change your destiny, it is quite a surreal feeling.
The saree that you bought for your Amma
The last but the best one. That first saree that you buy for your mom with your hard-earned money is truly a special one. I bought my mother a saree for the first time a few years ago. That look on her face and that tiny swell of pride within your chest every time she wears it, makes it all so worth it. If you’re yet to buy your mom a saree, trust me… Don’t wait for a special occasion, do it now. You won’t be sorry.