Sarees were a constant until a couple of months ago when I traded them for shorts or pants depending on whether it was yoga or walking. Monsoon days also mean longer drying time for clothes and cotton sarees take their own sweet time. I’d still wear them for some online meetings but largely they remained in the dark confines of my cupboard. Today afternoon was spent refolding them, something I do every few months to prevent them from developing fold marks.
It was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. As I unfolded and refolded them, they reminded me of many people, experiences and thoughts. I was reminded of the days when I would post regularly on IG and some of the lovely people I got to know thanks to a common love for the six yards. Some of the sarees were bought on travels, some from the saree seller who would come home every few months, many were gifts, some were shared, some were mother’s and a few of them were from a stranger I haven’t even met! The last lot were vintage sarees, over 50 years old and found their way to me via a rather circuitous route- NY to Montreal to Toronto to Bombay to Pune.
There were two easy breezy mul cotton sarees on the line today thanks to a respite in the rain and as they fluttered, I wandered through the sarees that have come to occupy space in my shelves. Unlike other clothes, the six yards somehow hold memory more firmly. Some of them happy and a few that also hold darkness but that is the fabric of life. A little of this and a little of that.
A couple of days ago, I wore a Sambalpuri ikat with the most gorgeous design of fauna and flora on its body. A jeweled green and red, this one was an impulse purchase on one of my trips out of town. The technique is a marvelous one of mathematical precision and craftsmanship. Ikats look identical on both sides. Most of the designs are drawn from nature and motifs include flowers and leaves, peacocks and elephants, lions etc. The single ikats are a tricky proposition but the double ikats are even more mind boggling. Both the warp and weft are dyed in the desired designs before being woven. They are not unique to India and the form has been practiced across different regions like South America, Central and South East Asia. Truly art that can be worn. Even within the country, there are different clusters that have their unique style, like the Patan Patolas or Pochampally ikats or Chinnalapatti silk cottons.
This country is rich in its textile heritage and the sheer diversity is staggering. It’s interesting to trace the way techniques have crisscrossed the country, a perpetual assimilation that continues to this day. Some of the migrations have been slow and organic while others have been a violent clash. I’m partial to the soft cottons from the south or then the light as air taants from Bengal which are perfect for our tropical summers. My favourite though remains the kora kasavu from the land of my foremothers for its timeless elegance.