Unfolded. Refolded.

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.

A closer look at the motifs

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.

 

 

Aprils

Aprils are
light hearted months
mangoes and melons

Aprils are
days by the sea
nights under stars

Aprils are
sun dressed bathers
bare chested surfers

Aprils are
long summer holidays

and road tripping

Aprils are
lovers on sand
and sleeping puppies

Aprils are
all this and more
just not this year


can’t wait to sink my teeth into those delicious fruits of summer…

A reader’s writing

I’ve been a reader since I was 8 or 9 and discovered that I could lose myself in the written word. There was no need to navigate people and situations with a book, one could live suspended in another’s world. It’s been many years and the act of reading has been a faithful one. Some years, I read fiction, some mythology, still others biographies and for many, I studied ancient texts. It has been an unending love affair with books. The finishing of a few of them have been an aching loss while others have been dipped into again and again.

Now that many years have passed since that first children’s book, I find that there is a maturing of the reader too, a coming of age. I thought the grown up books I read as an adolescent made me adult and worldly but I found that one needs the experience of living, loving and losing to truly taste language in all its multi hued nuances. I just finished an expansive volume on Kama by Gurcharan Das, a modern unpacking of desire and it unleashed many words inside that I didn’t know existed. Words of poetry or philosophy, I know not. Can they be both? Where does one end and the other begin or have they no boundaries? Maybe they’ll surface here, maybe not but I do hope they are found after I am gone.

Leaving with a musing that wrapped many layers from the colour of my saree to the book I read…

Half and Half

Ascetic. Erotic.
Blue Bodies

Half of him is her
Half of her is him

Upward. Downward.
One mind

Half of her is him
Half of him is her

Bound. Unbound.
Forever free

Half of him is him
Half of her is her

Relentlessly Me

Because we will not wait for the year to be good but catch it by its pigtails and swing away. 😛

If I had to have a word of the year, I would choose, relentless. It is an intense word with a negative connotation but the paradox is that the word springs from relent, which is soft and yielding.

Why do I choose relentless and what does a saree have to do with it? This stubborn desire to mark every saree wear in 2019 is part of a larger design, to be relentlessly me. No matter what, I’ll keep chipping away at everything inside me that does not serve the essential me. And it gives me wild pleasure to see others who do so effortlessly or take the plunge into a tentative first step.

Saree of the day is a reminder to be #relentlesslymetoday and marks 45/2019. This one is special as it is from a dear friend’s leap of faith into an entrepreneurial venture with nothing but a studentship of weaves. I loved the name of her curation, Anandi’s Trunk. As she says, “Anandi is every little girl or boy who wants to dress up like her/ his mother or grandmother, and the trunk is that precious box of old textiles that are part of our inheritance.”

Sarees have no boundaries of time, space or gender. Period.

#ghadimodane

I first heard of ghadi modane from Rupali, a saree enthusiast helplessly in love with the six yards. She mentioned an old Konkan tradition where a new saree was worn by a woman in the family or extended family before being used by oneself. Loosely translated, it means to open the folds of a new garment. Anyways, soon after, I happened to mention this to a dear friend in my neighbourhood. It jogged her memory and since I had a new saree that sat guiltily in my cupboard, I gave it to her. And just like that an old tradition bound within familial ties spilled into a virtual world.

As with most traditions, this would have been a way to strengthen and nurture bonds of sisterhood. And you can’t argue with the fact that showing off a new saree is a delightful experience. It would have been the Instagram equivalent of those times.

Another reason could be good old economics. Many decades ago before we became a wildly consumerist populace, new clothes were probably bought a couple of times a year for festivals and birthdays or then special occasions like a wedding or betrothal. Sharing a new saree meant a change from a limited set and some happiness in an otherwise hard existence. Of course, this is complete conjecture and there may not have been this aspect at all.

Another reason could have been sharing out of respect or affection. It is one of the garments that has always been a storehouse of memories quite like how festivals and natural occurrences mark the passage of time for the elders.

As I share with more people about this, I’ve been discovering a similar practice across a wider geography. Anyways, circa 2017 a new version of an old custom started to emerge, largely due to a sense of community amongst saree lovers on Instagram. Since family members may or may not dig sarees, why not widen the circle of love with those who love the six yards.

I spoke to a few ladies who opened the folds of my sarees and they were unanimous in the pleasure they felt. I’ve also been the recipient of many gorgeous sarees and have been grateful for the love and consideration. It is a slightly mad almost girlish excitement which the menfolk don’t quite get, especially the fact that these sarees are whizzing all over the place!

The recent saree I wore, a gorgeous blue handwoven irkal was handed to me by a fellow Instagrammer’s husband who visited my home! Strange are the ways of this ether world that connect absolute strangers and make them saree sisters.

Some of the ghadi modane sarees

I’m not an expert and have taken the liberty to imagine about the tradition. In case you have any additions or would like to correct something, please feel free to do so in comments. I would be happy to ammend the post.

edit: A tamil phrase, pirichchu kattikko means pretty much the same, open the folds and wear is something Lakshmi mentioned.