sarees tell stories

the shelf

i took this picture to send it to the landlord’s agent, so she’d understand why i was asking for a couple of shelves in my cupboard. i am worried that my sarees stacked, as you can see almost forty sarees high, will get ruined if i leave them like that. it’s already been two years. i hadn’t meant to write anything when i took the shot. though i have to say, i found it interesting.

amitabh bachchan sang the national anthem yesterday at eden gardens before the india-pakistan match at the t20 2016, i was told. i didn’t hear him and yet i can’t help but think all the talk about it must have triggered the thought that got me writing.

this morning, as i looked at the picture again, the words came to me out of nowhere, “punjab sindh gujarat maratha dravida utkal banga… vindhya himachal yamuna ganga…” i gazed at the colourful stacks, and my whole country seemed to be sitting right there in the cupboard.

sarees from all those states named in jana gana mana, and more.

i felt my thoughts stop, do a long wondering double take… i felt a little giddy with a strange joy. maybe it’s time to go to the psychiatrist. but i was happy, euphoric. i also quickly checked to make sure this was not all talk, there was some substance to it.

as i scanned the sarees i noticed, they represented almost all the regions of india mentioned in that line. alas sindh is not part of india any more, but from neighbouring kutch there was bandhni. i looked at the assam silks, the bhagalpuris, the kanjeevarams, the sambalpuri, the kerala kasavu, the kotkis, the dharmavaram, the tangails, the balucharis, the kota, the banarasis, the bishnupuri silks, the bandhej, the patolas, the gadwals, the mysore silk, the chanderis, the crepes with kashmiri stitch, the crepes with parsi gara style embroidery, the phulkari on tussar, the lucknow chikan, the ganga jamna sarees with borders in different colours, it was like all of india was chilling out in my little cupboard without shelves.

what we wear and have worn for centuries, i guess, is part of us, part of identity. but there’s more to the saree i think. i feel the touch of my land as i swish one out and start tucking it into place or just look at them and let their names go through my mind. a peculiar ownership in this, a sense of the familiar, the cherished, of what will always be home. there’s splendour here and a warm quiet comfort.

i have always had a love for the fabrics i grew up around, and wanted to have sarees from each and every state of india, all the different kinds. i have no idea how many weaves and traditional sarees we really have, every day you hear of another one you never knew existed… chettinad saree, for example. or just this afternoon, a lady spoke of goa’s kunbi sarees.

well, if the stacks can be forty sarees high.. they can be fifty sarees high too. and maybe i’ll get my shelves, who knows. in the meantime, i should hear mr bachchan sing the anthem, he has a beautiful voice.

sarees tell stories | bandhani ties  |  rukmini hall  |  that combination  |  the black paithani  |  time for a lal benaroshi  |  talk of the tangail  |  totally fair  |  a saree from kerala  |  sand banks, memory, and baluchari  |  a thing for khadi  |  a madhubani saree or two  |  girls and their sarees  |  when did the kantha become a saree  |  of real and fake chanderi sarees  |  the last saree i flicked from my mother  |  the nizam of mangalgiri  |  patola dreams  | in a pink nylon saree  |  how do you wear your saree  |  muga and memories  |  iron nails and camel dung  |  a lament for a saree  |  checks and no balance from chettinad  |

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  • Reply
    March 21, 2016 at 3:38 am

    Hi Indi,
    I heard Mr Bachchan sing the Anthem. And you are right he does have a beautiful voice which does justice to the gravity of the Anthem.

    I love your thought process. Have I mentioned that before? From the Anthem to your wardrobe… Loved it! But I understood and appreciated the point. Yes! fabric is an integral part of national identity for both India and Pakistan. And different regions have different specialties. The list that you catalogued was most amazing. Even more amazing, just how many variations are possible in something as basic as Fabric. And all within one country.

    I don’t know if I feel the touch of my land when I wear Shalwar Kameez… but I know that I feel more myself. More confident, more beautiful, more me.

    Thank you, once again for sharing your thoughts.

    Love and regards,

    P.S. I do hope you get those shelves!

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      March 21, 2016 at 3:49 am

      saman 🙂 adaab.. long time.

      to feel the touch of the land i guess you have to be in my state… visit to psychiatrist must. hehehehhe.
      was so good to see your comment so soon after i posted. yeah… i was intrigued by my thoughts too… guess almost nineteen years away from home… things take on other meanings. whatever little i have seen of pakistan’s fabric, it’s absolutely gorgeous. and your shalwar kameezes too beautiful, graceful. how are you? i must update never on a new year soon… missing all of you. take care.

      ps: “fabric is an integral part of identity” you write, yes… kapda, what you wear, such an expression of you… when that gets completely forgotten, i wonder what all goes away with it.

      • Reply
        March 21, 2016 at 5:02 am

        Hi Indi,
        How are you? My apologies for the long absence. I didn’t want to pressure you for the update on NCOL… See not saying a word about the new chapter. Not a single nudge.. Laughing. But jokes aside, I enjoy these Random thoughts of yours as well. Isn’t the mind a strange and wonderful place? I loved the connection yours made… And i have been humming your Anthem since I read your post. Pulled it up on Youtube. Sigh!

        • Reply
          indrani robbins
          March 21, 2016 at 8:17 am

          good to hear it reminded you of home and you’re humming your national anthem. and for reading my strange thoughts… no, you are not talking of ncofl… and i am not thinking of helena who might be irritated that i have ignored her for so long. okay, will try and update tonight. see you soon.

          • Saman
            March 21, 2016 at 3:18 pm

            Laughing… No Indi… I am humming YOUR Anthem!

            I am glad you noticed my restraint. I look forward to tonight. Absolutely see you then.

            Love and regards,

          • indrani robbins
            March 21, 2016 at 4:09 pm

            now i am giggling, sir… you’re humming my national anthem… wonderful. okay, we meet very late tonight. see ya.

  • Reply
    rhea sinha
    March 24, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    what a nice article Indi di.. You know what you should do? Add links to all the individual saree posts if you called out that type in this article like bandhani you already have a post.

    My mother always hangs her sarees in her godrej. “Folding creases them”, she would say, but then she runs out of space. So, now its an elaborate juggle of what remains out and what gets packed up for which season. Those sarees to me were one of the prettiest sights and probably why I started to love sarees from when I was too small. Her dupattas, then her sarees, now my own.. I have preened around in all.. What a journey..

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      March 25, 2016 at 1:34 am

      hi rhea,

      the godrej was such a must have. i absolutely refused to buy one when i got married, :). yes, folding sarees can’t be good for them. totally enjoyed your reminiscences over your mother’s sarees and dupatta, yeah, i learnt the same way. my mother also had two trunks full of the most beautiful “good” sarees. almost anyone in town who needed a saree for an occasion was allowed to borrow… i wore so many of them to weddings and things. one fine day, after she moved to calcutta, the damp or something got to them and most of them were spoilt. such pretty ones, i keep pieces of some with me still, and soem of my grandmother’s sarees too, uff te work and the colours of that time. i’ve even and had one or two restored. that is you take out the borders and pallu and the motifs of need be, lay them on new material and strengthen the old bits with some backing cloth and even embroidery if need be. anything that becomes a place for memories, where your people and their thoughts stay alive and kicking, how can that be a bad thing. 🙂 happy preening forever and keep twirling.

      oh, that’s a good idea… i’ll add some links.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2016 at 3:37 am

    I had this intense desire to see my amma after reading this. She has always wanted to collect saris from all the states. She does have a few, maybe not from all. Goes against the norm as far as her saris are concerned, will wear a new cotton sari for a wedding when the rest would be decked in garish silk saris! Yeah there’s something about the sari and us.

    • Reply
      March 26, 2016 at 3:38 am

      And yes her saris are kept in a godrej almari 🙂

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      March 26, 2016 at 9:27 am

      awww, i can’t tell you how i happy i am to read this reminded you of your mother. good to hear she too had this thing for a saree from every state. and yes, a cotton if that’s what she is in the mood for, i can’t understand this standardization of everything. wedding means silk, summer means cotton, chiffon is for the slim; when i was growing up, it was oh you can’t wear white unless you’re older, it isn’t a colour for the young. i wore white constantly.

      godrej almari? hehehhe, read aarwen’s comment? my mother’s “good sarees” sat in two trunks. absolute fun to mess around in them. and strangely, now i remember, the only thing i told my brother i would take from her place after she passed away, was her cupboard. it’s an old one that had belonged to my paternal grandmother and my mother used after she came to live in the family home. i can still see her sarees folded on the shelves, the cupboard open, and my mother sitting on the bed, telling me which one to pull out.

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