This happened one Saturday morning. As I twisted open the door of the steely grey mirrored Godrej Almirah staidly sitting pretty in a corner of the spare bedroom, I stood for a moment inhaling the mixed smell of dusted sandalwood and naphthalene balls. Realizing I had opened it after quite a while,my mind raced into a nostalgia trip. I remembered a time when these wonderfully sturdy monoliths occupied a place of pride, housing the belongings of my entire family – clothes, important documents, jewelry, photo albums and what not! But now, I used it to stock the so called precious or rather should i say the lesser used clothes and documents (no cash given the cashless economy :)).
“What is the point in having so many if you never wear them!!! You may as well give them away to charity!” an accusing voice rudely jolted me from my stupor. It was my mother from behind. For a moment, I stood still wondering what had brought that on. Then as I stared at the pile of neatly stacked saris in front, understood and hastened to shut the incriminating evidence of my negligence out of sight. But unfortunately, that didn’t stop the tirade. She continued “I have spent so much on gifting you these saris, right from your wedding to every occasion like anniversaries, Diwali etc. but never see you wearing them”.
“That’s because the special occasions when I can wear them are very few,” I retorted.
“One doesn’t need a special occasion to wear a sari. You should wear them to work as I used to,” my mother continued.
“Do you know how hectic a time I have getting to office, leave alone working there? I can’t afford to spend 30 mins a day draping it and then managing it at every step the whole day”.
“Don’t give me these nonsense excuses. You travel so comfortably in office cabs each day, while there was a time when I used to hang on to dear life and Sari in the crowded Calcutta buses without being ruffled. Your generation is just too soft. Either you start wearing them or I start giving them away.”
“How come you don’t wear your 9 yard saris then everyday like your mother used to?” I said.
“Paati (Grandmother) is right.” a little voice suddenly pitched in. “You keep telling me that I have to wear the dress you choose for me and now you yourself do not listen to your mother” my daughter continued adding fuel to the fire.
“I wear only saris every day to work”, added my long time house help pointedly at my mother, her interest aroused by the prospect of getting some saris.
I realized it was futile to argue with two polarized females and went fuming to the living room. Hubby dearest, having overheard the conversation and observing my mood, ventured to remark “Shobbho thik bolechilo (Civility says it right)”. Where does civility come into the picture, I wondered retorting harshly “Oshobbher motun katha bolo na (Don’t speak like an uncivilized person)”.
“Arrey, I didn’t say it, that Shachchi guy did”. I looked at him clueless for a moment and then light dawned on me.
Shobbho +Shachchi (in Bengali) = Sabya + Sachi (in any other language) = Sabyasachi. I mentally gave myself a pat for my incredible language transformation skills.
So, Sabyasachi was this designer guy who had made some remark about how shameful it was if an Indian woman did not know how to wear a Sari. Ahhaa, I had all the points ready for this argument, starting from the designers do this to sell their inanely expensive saris to how many guys knew how to wear a dhothi themselves before commenting on women’s traditional wear. But just as I started to open my mouth, I observed the 2 females entering the room and felt silence to be the best policy. Now, we all know what is best done in silence – mindless smart phone browsing. And that was when I saw the message – “Join the Run in a Sari”.
My top blew off then, “what the @#$&! Here I am struggling to wear a Sari on a normal day and this company wants me to run 10 kms in a Sari! Simply ridiculous!” a scene from the movie Devdas flashed across my mind, the actress running down the stairs with her long to the power infinity sari trailing behind her and knocking over lamps, burning the house down. I pictured myself in a similar situation on the tracks, sari undone all over and hordes of women tripping on my trail. I shuddered at the thought having no wish to be, “Sorry on the run!”
I did go to the run, not in a Sari as I preferred happy endings, but quite curious to see how many women turned up in one. A few did and I must admit they looked smashing, comfortably running the whole length. What I also liked was old women turning up at the event, but not in a Sari, rather in comfortable suits or tracks. And to give credit to the organizers, they had promoted the idea of running in a Sari to encourage women shed their inhibitions on joining the run irrespective of what they wore.
So ultimately, that is what it is all about –
Women’s capabilities to achieve what they wanted – irrespective of their age or their garb and the individual choice of women to wear what they wish to and not what they are forced to by the dictates of societal norms. In fact, the Sari by itself is an ultimate symbol of freedom. Unbound by the restrictions of tailoring stitches, this piece of cloth is wonderfully free flowing, allowing the user independent customization of drape, length, multiple hues and accompaniments. Wear them or not, I love my saris and the heritage they stand for and I am sure other women feel the same. The Sari really does not really need the voices of righteous cultural gurus for saving it from antiquity. Just as it has survived for all these ages on its own, adapting and evolving across the country, so does it represent the spirit of Women independence and progress!
Yours on the run,