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THE SARI

Sathya Saran  (click here to know more about this blogger)

Time and again I come upon this complaint from young women...' I don't know how to tie a sari.' Well. None of us Indians are born knowing how to tie a sari. Despite the fact that saris have been part of our lives for almost centuries, the skill has not filtered into our genes and has to be learnt by every individual young woman as she grows old enough to drape one.

As kids we enjoyed wrapping yards of cloth around us, curtains or dupattas, and pretending we were dressed in saris, as we played house-house or bustled about feeling importantly grown up. And wearing a sari for the first time was a huge rite of passage. Our mothers would of course have to help but once we were dressed up, we would bustle about at a college annual day event in our borrowed silks, feeling suddenly adult and very much in charge, though by the end of the day the sari would be crushed and we would have tired of it. Dispassionately speaking though, the sari is an amazing garment. It lends itself to innumerable styles of draping, can look regal or slovenly depending on how the wearer carries it and herself, and I personally find I can do almost anything wearing a sari. In fact I have cycled and even climbed trees in one! And only yesterday, I found myself marveling at a neighbor who drops and picks her daughter from school dressed immaculately in a sari and matching well cut blouse. Which is why I am impatient with the wilting lilies of today who find wearing a sari a burden and cannot be bothered to learn how to drape the five meters around themselves.
 
At the shows based on my book on Guru Dutt, the actress playing Meena Kumari has a quick five-minute change of sari and jewellery between scenes. The saris she needs to wear are of course heavy typically Sabyasachi Conjeevarams as befits the scene. And some help is of course necessary during such quick costume changes. But when both the actress as well as the green room helper throw up their hands and proclaim their inability to drape a sari, it is a moment fraught with the distressing truth that we are in danger of losing one of our most vital skills. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against dressing for convenience. More often than not I am also in jeans and top or a salwar kameez but when the occasion demands it is not problem at all to slip into a sari. It is in fact a switch that I find suddenly equips me with an almost forgotten grace of movement and carriage.
 
At a recent NIFT convocation held in Mumbai, it was wonderful to see the faculty dressed in uniformly beautiful cream and off-white saris. They fluttered around like graceful birds, their pallaus swaying behind them as they welcomed guests and escorted dignitaries to the dais or the venue. The graduating students however were a disappointment. Though they had been given a dress code, had been told to look traditionally Indian for the occasion, only a few had paid heed. And so, what I saw as the students went up one by one to take their degrees was a collection of poorly cut short dresses, super tight pants that sometimes concealed over-size bottoms along with some smarter versions of western wear and a few saris, worn well. It told me quite clearly that while the students treasured their freedom of choice when it came to clothes, they still had to learn the lessons of dressing right and with decorum as suits the occasion. Which as any one who dresses impeccably will tell you, is part of that skill.
 
This then is an appeal to all young Indian women. In the process of being global citizens, with clothes from every part of the world hanging in your wardrobe, please do not forget the joy and pride of dressing in a sari. It is a skill that the world admires and tries, often in vain, to learn. It is a shortcut to grace. Drape yourself in a sari, let it flow in soft waves around you and feel the difference. Let us not , like the Japanese did, and our men folk have, forget the most important aspect of our way of dressing up... the art of making six yards or five metres of cloth turn us into epitomes of grace!
 
 
06-DECEMBER-2012
 
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2 Comments
 
07-FEBRUARY-2013 A.L.Sharada
Dear Satya, Enjoyed reading your blog. Just thought I will share a blog that I had written on Sari. Hope you enjoy reading it. http://sirfgyan.blogspot.in/2012_03_01_archive.html
 
 
06-DECEMBER-2012 Meher Castelino
The sari is the best and most stylish creation which is timeless and can knock all these designers' creations off the charts anywhere in the world
 
 
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