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sarees tell stories

sarees tell stories

a lament for a saree

it’s a favourite saree of mine, and now it’s fraying. a strange kind of pain at this weakening of closely entwined threads, at this clear signal of mortality, at passing. it’s a saree from orissa, now the spelling has been changed to odisha; we spend a lot of time changing spellings for some reason. my mother and i bought it, around thirty five years ago, from one of the saree shops along triangular park in kolkata (we changed that spelling…

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sarees tell stories

iron nails and camel dung

the more i look at the saree, the more it wraps me in thoughts. random ones that i can’t arrange beautifully like the profusion of hand printed patterns on it. i want to write a simple piece, i mutter to myself… about those nails and camel dung, but i can’t stop the steady stream of images and words: shadowy memories of things heard far away in the past, and some just the other day. cotton trade, american civil war, indigo…

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sarees tell stories

muga and memories

there were always butterflies to chase after and try and catch; powdery colour left behind on your fingers as the winged one found a way to escape your clutches. not just the usual yellow and white butterflies. they were blue and black, brown with large eye like patterns, some had purple streaks, some ornate wings with frilly edges. in the reserve forest there were many more. and there were moths too. big ones, tiny ones, in the house, in the…

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sarees tell stories

how do you wear your saree

she wasn’t very tall, had a slight figure, hair in a bun, a pleasant expression, nothing remarkable really, yet the two of us were staring at her riveted. next thing i remember, we’d waylaid her and started an animated conversation. i looked at the photograph recalling things. it was the winter of 1980, i think. no internet, no google, no photoshop; i have to rely on good old memory. nice feeling. in fact, when i found the photograph, and grinned…

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sarees tell stories

in a pink nylon saree

it was my maternal uncle’s wedding. may 1966. i was six, my cousins between four and ten. we were five of us girls i think. we were all going to attend the wedding in calcutta and then go to delhi for the reception. my grandmother, always generous, fun, a bit over the top as grandmothers really ought to be, decided to get nearly identical lehengas and sarees made for us. the lehengas were in red silk with green cholis and…

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sarees tell stories

patola dreams

the edges of the patterns are slightly blurred, the colours are shimmering, the silk flows. i am holding this darkly lovely saree at a boutique in bombay and quietly falling in love. the fabric is soft as it falls languidly to the floor, the base is black with a mesh of yellow and magenta and purple and red and on it, the borders are ganga jamna… one red, the other magenta, not too wide, not too narrow. everything about the…

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sarees tell stories

the last saree i flicked from my mother

“where did you get this saree from?” i asked, when she came out of the room in this lovely light tangail. my mother was visiting me in singapore. she looked sort of pleased for i am sure she’d noticed the pique of interest in my voice. she said, she didn’t remember the name of the shop but she had decided to get herself some comfortable cotton sarees before coming here. so she had gone with one of her favourite cousins…

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sarees tell stories

of real and fake and chanderi sarees

he loved vintage cars. every morning, practically, he’d come to look at his collection, which used to be kept in a garage built on land rented from my family. he always wore pristine, brilliant white pajamas and a flowing crisp kurta, his hair would be neatly brushed and the most pleasant smile would appear on his face if he happened to spot you or any of your elders. “namashkar!” he’d greet in a low amicable tone, as he raised his…

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sarees tell stories

A Unique Silk

Our family is vegetarian, which lifestyle later led to one member in the family taking this non-violent way a little further by adopting a vegan way of life. LALITA ARYA, our first guest writer on Sarees Tell Stories, brings us the tale of a delightful fabric and more. Many thanks to Lalita for enjoying Writersbrew and deciding to write about a saree that touched her.  Being vegan has become quite popular in the west, although this has been one of the many…

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sarees tell stories

when did the kantha become a saree

the simple run stitch. needle moving up, needle moving down, a stitch you see, a stitch you don’t, anyone can do this, of course, it’s not an art. it’s the everyday, good old run. women untrained, housewives, aunties and grandmothers chatting together after lunch on a winter afternoon chewing their paan, they use it to make soft quilts with old sarees and dhotis. quilts called kantha. the “n” is a soft nasal one and the “a”s stretch long, and it’s…

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