It is a twisted tale involving six yards of silky fabric, but my love affair with the graceful sari began at an early age. I remember getting a “child sari” from my dad when I was about four or five years old. My mother’s sari cupboard was a treasure chest of fabrics. Here I fingered smooth silk saris with heavy gold brocade on the edges. The tissue thin chiffon saris had wild geometric patterns and designs. The rough cotton saris had texture and smelled of rice starch. I loved the slippery nylon and rayon saris because they were never wrinkled or tired-looking.
Then in my early teenage years I fell out of love with billowing garment. I opted for skirts, midis and jeans. I wanted comfort and a sense of belonging in my Catholic school. The sari was too glamorous and eye-catching for a teenager.
In college it was mandatory to wear heavy “kadi” or rough cotton saris and I draped the heavy fabric with a heavier heart. I dreamed of light-weight silk and floating chiffon saris.
The years passed. I loved choosing the creamy white and gold wedding sari. More years passed. The beautiful yards of material languished in my closet with little opportunity to wear them.
Now my second career is poised to take-off and so is my love of wearing saris. The sari drapes and hides my middle-age bumps and bulges and if I squint I can almost see my young self in the elaborate silk saris.
The saris I wear now have stories. As I look in my closet I recognize the ones that once belonged to an aunt who wore them for years before passing the pale pink, the bright magenta and iridescent green and gold saris to me. The ones that belonged to my mother are tissue-thin and so precious that I’m reluctant to even unfold them. My wedding saris bring back warm memories. There is the bright yellow one my brother-in-law gave me just before he proposed to my sister. Each garment has a history and a tale attached to it. My life story is told in neon yellow, bright pink, subdued greens and gold. It is an elegant narrative encased in gorgeous silk, chiffon, nylon and cotton.