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The Whole Nine Yards

“Do you realise that you must wear a sari?!” a dear aunt gasped in mock earnestness, while heartily congratulating me on my looming wedding.

It brings a smile to me even now, 15 years on, when I think back on the day, as I sit snug in my well-fitted denims, exactly as I did back then, caressing fine silk and contemplating between its many folds whether the colour would reflect the light, if it was too heavy to carry and if I should escape to the ease of a chiffon kurta and silk cigarette pants for a festive albeit traditional evening.

That effortless elegance can come in lengthy fabrics of all kinds and has held our mothers securely every single day of their adult lives rendering them breathtakingly divine when the occasion so demands, is now a matter of deliberate consideration for ‘special wear’. It makes for serious thought. It is also time again for the cosmopolitan urban belle to revitalise the cultural context and rediscover the glory of the Sari – testament to a rich heritage, the humble artisan’s articulation of lore, pride of the owner’s stock and that great Indian drape which fascinates global couture, season on season.

It has always been a rage, though. Remember ‘sari day’ at school? That’s when even tomboys turned into demure gazelles for that one day when mums’ wardrobes came tumbling out in the hunt for whimsy crepes and crisp cottons that hugged just enough, not too much, with well-hung pallus wound over exactly six tucked pleats and no less, so that those minxy kitten heels would show themselves off on manicured feet and a keenly practiced trot.

That was then. Now, we indulge in nostalgia across the oceans and conform to sari pacts back home, pledging 100 days of the year in honour of the sari, launching mean business deals while airing out precious and painstakingly curated trousseaux, some of which, to our dismay, has fallen prey to neglectful years and monsoon mould. While we lament that loss, we also remember to tag a little memoir to the selfie that we do take. And just like that, we immortalise a legacy.  

In doing so, we also hashtag a region that is reminiscent, if at all, in coffee table books and retail catalogues. With that one click, we protagonise not just the sari which we wish to celebrate but also the indigenous, and endagered, art forms associated with it. We raise charities and upliftment schemes to encourage the artisans that live little to help us live large. We support the girl child getting by in those parts. We take international press into local ghettos and voila! Bespoke Madhubani takes pride of place in world repertoire.

It is more apparent now than ever, that the sari binds. In our multi-cultural panaroma, it binds tradition. In reaching far, it binds places. In its opulence, it weaves a certain je ne se quoi into the mundane – a little sweet into savvy. And in the conversations it generates, it binds people. 

After many chit-chats on weaves and designs and gharanas and other such, and many more reads on this Indian wardrobe essential, it was rather heartening to note that there are many enterprising people committed to guarding an inheritance that is too dear to be lost to quicksilver metro lifestyles. They have spun these eclectic yarns with tales as myriad as the nooks they come from. Some are exotic, some are down-right heart-warming.

And when you find young minds at work, in your front yard at that, Serendip lives again. 
Alankrit by Neha Garg is one such initiative that twinkled its way into my horizon when I discovered that my wardrobe had some missing links. It is an initiative that aims at up-trending ancient Gotta-patti, lappa, zardozi and other traditional work from the princely state of Rajasthan. Neha sources her merchandise from the embroiderers and delivers it directly to the consumer. By removing the middleman, she is able to generate greater employment in many small villages like Khandela, improving general living standards among the artisan community in those parts. Apart from bringing folk art into high street fashion, thereby promoting heritage, Alankrit goes a step further by empowering the girl child through education. Actively repowering the ‘Save the Sari’ movement, it aims to “stabilise local economy at the grassroots level and create a national identity”. 
“Wear a saree”, says Neha and we agree.

The storytelling has just begun.
Next in the series: Once Upon a Pallu 


swarna padma said…
I went back to 10th grade Sari day! I can relate to it so much, brings back happy memories and 'drama'! Loved it, Tej...xx
Tejaswi said…
That is so good! Closing time gaps too, our beloved sari.
Thanks, Padma xx. Stay tuned :)
Tejaswi said…
Glad you think so :)
Divya Badri said…
This article makes for a compelling read and reinforces the faith that wearing Indian handloom is a service to India by those who wear , promote and appreciate it. Infact, in my opinion, even men should start wearing dhotis.
Tejaswi said…
Divya, that's a very refreshing perspective - service to India.
Thankyou indeed for doing your service so well :)
Beautifully written...loved it😊
Tejaswi said…
Thankyou Archie doll :)
adrita sinha said…
Beautifully written....loved it....compels us to rethink our lifestyle. ..
Tejaswi said…
Thankyou Adrita. And welcome here :) Do your rethink vigorously and reinvigorate something we all love.
Stay tuned, there's more coming.
Nice tribute to that ' great Indian drape'! To an Indian mind, no attire adds more elegance and charm to the wearer like a Saree does! Add to that the innumerable choice representing diverse culture, tradition and ethnicity! Encouragement offered to the artistic expression of the maker is like icing on the cake!
Tejaswi said…
Beautifully said! Thankyou!
You might find some of your words in my next.
Do stay tuned :)
shivis said…
Tej.... well articulated... one of the most sensuous attire of all our tradition... your article compels everyone to think holistically about the saree ... n the tradition .... the makers.... 👌🏻👌🏻
Tejaswi said…
Thankyou! And welcome here :)
You are spot-on about the wholistic bit. Stay tuned - we're gonna have some fun :)
kanti shetty said…
Thanks for yet another interesting read Tej! The ' great Indian drape' has perhaps been a constant thread interwoven into our culture through the ages, yet adapting itself to the changing times! No wonder thus, it's always in fashion.
Love your writing style Tej..will wait for more!
Tejaswi Uthappa said…
Thankyou, Kanti. It is its adaptability that makes it so resilient. Do come back, there will be more :)

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⚡मुखोटे पर मुखोटा चढ़ा कर,
यार, तुम क्यों थकते नहीं?!
खुद कि नहीं तो उस परेशान आयने की सोचो जो तुम्हें पहचाना ही भूल गया!

फिर, कुछ दोस्त ऐसे भी मिले
जो शिकायत से शिकायत रखते हैं।
खुशनसीब हैं हम की चंद लम्हे उनके साथ भी गुज़ारे। 

पर बयान-ए-नज़राना कह लो या गुलाम-ए-वक़्त,
शायर बना ही देता है शातिर जमाना।
ज़हन में जुनून लिए हमने भी मोर्चा निकाल लिया। 

त्योहार आते रहे, मौके मिलते रहे
कि अब कहीं शिकंज दूर होगी।
पर इनसानियत की बदकिसमती कह लो या इनसान की फितरत, खुशी से कोई खुश नहीं।

दो पल जो बक्शे  हैं बनाने वाले ने, यार, उन्हें गवाना नहीं।
खुद की रूह जिंदा रहे ना रहे,
हवा सबूत रखती है हर सलूक की।

हर बेग़र्ज़ कोशिश में खुदगर्जी ढूंढने वालों,
वक़्त- बेवक़्त साज़िश की तलाश छोड़ो अब।
धोखा हम भी खा चुके हैं बहुत, धोखेबाज़ को पहचानते हैं अब।

उम्र गवाह है कि उम्र टिकती नहीं,
तारीख बंधी नहीं है, वह भी रुकती नहीं।
ज़्यादती वह हद ना पार कर जाए कि हर्ज़ाने का ही वक़्त फिसल जाए।

जान है, जिंदादिली से जियो,
दिल खोलकर आहें भरो, दिल खोलकर जीने दो।
ख़ुदा कहो या भगवान, वह नज़रे गाड़े बैठा है...
इतनी इज्जत रख लो अपनी कि ऊपर मुंह दिखा सको।