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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

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

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

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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sarees tell stories

girls and their sarees

will you both wear sarees one day and let me take some pictures, i asked. one of them grinned, the other did not. my sixteen year old niece loves to wear sarees, my almost fifteen year old daughter doesn’t. my niece held up the white tangail with gold border and black and gold motifs. it’s a beautiful saree, fine cotton, classy and cool. i think my mother picked it up from a shop in lake market in calcutta, almost twenty…

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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. though i have to say, i found the shot interesting. amitabh bachchan sang the national anthem yesterday at eden…

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sarees tell stories

a madhubani saree or two

my aunt said, “shall i get a madhubani saree made for you?” i was intrigued, madhubanis were paintings, weren’t they? with endless little lines, geometric figures, krishna, radha, peacocks, flowers, faces with elongated eyes, deer, forest… fine lines and bright colours. how do you make a saree of that? madhubani pieces are fairly commonplace or at least they used to be. i am not talking of extremely intricate pieces, it’s the more basic ones, often in black/green/red and maybe blue…

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