“Mumma, where is your Taant saree? That white coloured one with red border. Oh ho! The one you bought from Ranu saree shop. I can’t find it.”
That's how I asked my mother when she was about to get ready for her college. I was an excited child who was always fascinated by her mother’s collection of sarees. The sarees that smelled of her beautiful perfume, starch, iron, and were always new. I loved to arrange her saree with blouse and a matching pair of flat chappals. I arranged her saree pleats and loved to see her beautifully draped. That was a 14-year-old me.
For me, sarees were an essential part of my growing up. I have seen my Nani, Dadi, Bua, and all my Maasis wear the six-yard with elegance. Whether it was someone’s birthday or marriage ceremony, the buzz was always around wearing and gifting sarees.
Like many other girls, I wore saree for the first time on my school farewell day. It was a turquoise blue chiffon saree that my mother had bought for some family function. I was lanky and thought myself as a model while walking the ramp on the stage of the school auditorium. I loved the feel of the saree. And yes, it smelled like my mother.
I started wearing sarees. Whether it was for my friends’ weddings or family functions, my love for sarees only enhanced. When I got posted in Mumbai for my job, I bought Paithanis from a shop at Dadar. I wore this blue saree on many occasions. I bought a yellow kanjivaram silk with red border from Mahalaxmi Mumbai for my wedding. My mother-in-law gifted me many Banarasis with golden thread work. They are precious. For keeps. I want to keep those forever.
But my real love for sarees and that too cotton ones began during my seven years of stay in Bengal. Bengal has always been very special for sarees. Whether it’s Phulia cotton or weaves of Murshidabad, I have been in love with the craft ever since I was a kid. My mother mostly wore Dhakai Jamdani and Taant sarees. I loved those sarees. I loved Bengal weaves. From shops of Garihat to Salt Lake, I started collecting all the cottons. These shops were my constant places of solace and nostalgia. The laal paar, white jamdani, blue taant, white kantha work and yellow dhaniakhali sarees were slowly finding their ways in my wardrobe. I was enjoying the process.
I learnt to wear mismatched blouses in Bengal. I saw my neighbours wear sarees with panache and grace. I was enchanted. I wanted to wear sarees like them. Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja gave me reasons enough to get my hands on all the yellows and whites. The practice still continues. My association with Bengal and its sarees still continues. Most of the times, the purchases are made online through the same shopkeepers who pampered me when I started my ‘hoarding’ hobby. I have many sarees and mostly in cottons. I want more. I want to wear them daily. I want to dress up the same way as my Nani and Masis. I want to go to the era when wearing a saree was a part of the daily life. There was no judgement. The era of grace and beauty.
My sarees are simple. They are not expensive. Some of them are as less as 500 bucks. I try to buy directly from the weavers if possible. The yarn and theme thread counts. The fabric entices me. I feel saree is one of the attires that suits everyone.
Now, when I drape a saree, it’s my 14-year-old daughter who keeps running after me with my shoes and matching earrings for she likes to dress me up and make the pleats as I did for my mother almost 27 years ago.