This morning, still at my grandmother’s house in the middle of somewhere, mum and I climbed up the attic stairs, our idle curiosity leading us up. Up there, among the sacks of rice, old copper vessels, bronze rice cookers, giant spider webs and remnants of the last bathroom remodel sat four old suitcases.
One had old stainless steel trays and a set of glass bowls among wall brackets that once held my books in my mother’s house. Two other trunks had old papers, some silverfish, mostly rubbish. The last one was the jackpot – a brown suitcase crammed with old silk sarees. These were sarees that no one seemed to wear anymore. Most of them had tiny tears at the point where they would be pinned to the shoulder. All of them were still gorgeous and brought back instant memories.
There were the two blush-pink silk sarees that my sister P wore to college events; I still remember her getting dressed and wearing them out. There’s a brinjal-blue silk with a floral border that accompanies my mother in photographs of birthday parties when we were six or seven. There’s a vintage teal chiffon saree with tiny white polka dots that I have no memory of. But it is in perfect condition.
What does one do with these lovely lengths of once-expensive cloth? It’s been eight years since I last wore a saree. Strangely enough, it was in England at a ‘proper’ English wedding. The rest of the guests were in summer dresses and hats and morning coats and there I was, standing out in my beautiful magenta chiffon sari with minimal gold embroidery and a sleeveless blouse. I was quite pleased at being able to wear a saree that day and the compliments I received made me glad I did.
I haven’t worn one since. Not once, even though we’ve returned to the land of sarees and I’ve confiscated some of my mother’s old ones and they lay loved but ignored in one of the trunks that hold my clothes.
I’m full of admiration of the young women who signed up to the #100saree pact, where they wear sarees a 100 times this year. I want to be one of those women. I want to once again wear a saree with panache. I who once jumped into trains with a saree and high heels now can’t be bothered to dress up and to me that is such a tragedy.
Some of these old sarees might turn into cushion covers or a new blouse (if I can bear to cut them up). The others might just get a new lease of life.
Or that’s the plan.