Like most Indian women, on the occasion of my wedding I received a dozen or more sarees as a part of my trousseau. My mother made an effort to collect a saree that represented a craft from different regions of India. I didn't understand the fuss. "What am I going to do with all these sarees?"
For me, sarees were for wearing at weddings. As a freelance wedding photographer, the only weddings I was attending were those of my clients where it would be highly impractical to wear a saree while carrying 3-5kg worth of camera equipment on me.
I moved to Mumbai and filled my limited wardrobe space with "regular" clothes, aforementioned camera equipment and books. Lots and lots of books. My sarees remained in my parent's home and every year, my mother faithfully aired them out and packed them away again.
In 2021, I left behind the freelance photographer life, and started a new role at ARTISANS'.
Working alongside Radhi, my eyes slowly began to absorb what they have been "seeing" all along. The magic of Indian textiles - their "weft and weave", the stories that they tell of people, communities, villages.
I began to distinguish an Ajrakh from a Baghru. A Jamdani from a Kantha.
My new job gave me the perfect excuse to wear sarees at events. I bought my first handwoven Ilkal saree from Kubsa. I wore it to an outdoor arts festival. On a trip back home, I selected a few sarees from my trousseau and my mother's formidable collection and made space for them in my Mumbai wardrobe. I tried to force my friends to all wear sarees for my Birthday "Saree Soirée". Some of them obliged, others rolled their eyes.
With every saree worn, I began to appreciate this magnificent piece of long cloth a little more and as I have found to be true many times in my life, when you throw yourself into an interest, a community of like-minded folks slowly makes itself known to you.
On an Instagram scroll, I stumbled upon "Saree Sakhiyaan" a group equally (or more) mad about the saree as I am on a mission to make "sari-wearing a part of our everyday lives."
Confession: a benefit or working at ARTISANS', is the ability to organise events that I really want to participate in.
And so I attended my first Saree Sakhiyaan Meet-up and Saree Draping and Styling Workshop by one of the group members - Abira Dhar.
Abira is a petite Bengali woman with a huge smile and joie de vivre that makes it impossible to not instantly fall in love with her. Over two hours, we gasped with delight as she showed us how with a simple turn of the pleats, or a tie of the pallu, a world of infinite possibilities can be opened up to wear the saree to suit the occassion or mood of the day. Just as she does and documents on her Instagram account.
The saree doesn't care where the pin lands on the weighing scale, where the holiday extravagances have deposited themselves on your body, how your body stretches and expands and shrinks with the rhythm of cycles, age and emotions. The saree is ready to embrace you wherever you are on this continuum. The perfect piece of clothing to adorn your body-as-it-is-now.