Tugging at my dupattas at one of those weekend get-togethers, I heard a voice behind me go “I never see you in sarees”. Half teasing, half serious the girl asked me why?
In trying to respond to her my mind went back a few decades. It must have been in ninth grade or tenth, I forget now, I remember having Amma help me wrap a red saree around me. Her blouse fit me perfectly. As I struggled getting the pallu to cover my womanly curves without being a walking peep show, I remember how transformed I felt. In minutes I had gone from a double plaited school girl to a budding woman child.
Walking into school, I felt conscious. Very conscious. I studied in a co-ed school. I even remember students saying “Good Morning Miss” mistaking me for one of the teachers. Blessed with a child’s mind in a woman’s body, I remember feeling awkward and trying to grapple with my sexuality. Wearing the saree was the first time I realized I had curves and the saree made them stand out. I had an uncomfortable feeling people were commenting behind me. I remember a couple of school seniors turning back to look at me. Funny what the mind remembers.
Over the years I went on to wear the saree more often than I could have ever thought of. Studying in semi urban Coimbatore, special days at college were marked by a show of sarees. My friends and I giggled and complimented each other on our prowess at how well the pleats fell or how gracefully we carried ourselves or how few safety pins held our saree together. The saree defined us as women. I associated words like grace and beauty with the saree then.
Looking back, ignorance is bliss. I cared not about the love handles. Or the rather well fed midriff. Or the tires around the middle. Fast forward to middle life. I wear the saree now on rare occasions. I take care to choose materials that would fall and flow with the lines on my body. I feel uncomfortable at best.
Nothing has changed much between then and now but for the associations I have formed with the five meters of material. What once epitomized for my sexuality and beauty now represents my negative self image. I want to change that.
I did shop for and buy a few this time in India. I have them in my closet. Reserved to be worn on special days. Days when I could use a lift to my spirits. Or celebrate something new in my life. Till then salwars rule.