Attack of the Saree Brigade
Yesterday, I came across an article in Hindustan Times about two women in Bangalore starting off a saree revolution of sorts by pledging to wear at least 100 sarees this year. After reading it, I felt happy and optimistic — so there are people like me who love wearing sarees! So there are people who appreciate a good weave! So there are women who feel special in a good drape! Yippie!
I personally love wearing sarees and am astounded at the response the #100sareepact has received. So many sarees ‘coming out of the closet’ (pun 100% intended) and becoming a part of the graceful-selfie club was nice. From the way I see it, those are the tales of women who have no obligation of wearing a saree (mostly in urban India), but do it willing for whatever reason.
It took me years to master the art of draping it properly, but I was a pro by the time I got married to Major Sa’ab. And then my putti-parade* started.
I used to wear saree to office on all major festivals (regardless of whether I celebrate it or was even remotely associated with it) and my colleagues would ask me, “Kya baat hai, shaadi ka rishta aya hai kya?” Duh!
But when I joined my husband at his Unit, I realised that it’s not just the men who wear the uniform, but their wives have to wear sarees to all functions and parties as the unofficial uniform. And the frequency of those parties was maddening.
The day I entered the Army as a new bride, I was told that there is a big reunion function after two weeks. It was a 3-4 day celebration of all past and present officers of Major Sa’ab’s Unit and there were at least 2 functions daily. Dress code — saree.
I was new to the Army culture and I rather liked the idea of getting this opportunity to flaunt my collection of sarees that I had been buying for 4-5 years. But the putti-parade* part began when almost every time I would have to change into a new saree in just 15 minutes. It seemed an impossible task at that time, and I gradually resented wearing saree at all.
My love for cotton and silk sarees has not faded though. But now I can drape a saree in flat 5 minutes, and need just one safety-pin (on the shoulder) to hold it together. I have attended so many fauji functions and parties in a saree, that I must have surpassed the #100sareepact – as have thousands of other Army wives.
But the sad part is that not many wear it happily. Some Army wives crib a lot about having to drape a saree, and I would sometimes join them in this anti-saree rant.
It dawned on me that the joy of wearing a saree loses its charm the moment it is made mandatory.
Women who live in conservative sasurals would agree. When there is this ‘wear a saree all the time’ dagger hanging over your head, then the six-yard fabric too suffers along with the woman.
Similarly Army’s unsaid rule of wearing a saree at ALL FUNCTIONS is taken in a sasural-diktat manner by the ladies. I get it if a lady has to wear a saree to a formal dinner party, Family Welfare function, or in the Officer’s Mess. It is a smart formal attire that looks good on every shape and age. But insistence on wearing it to a Ball party or a Polo/Golf match is dragging it a bit too far.
Some of us like to flaunt a well-tailored Salwar-Kameez, a stylish pair of trousers with a shirt/kurti or some nice western dresses. Hamari guhaar suno!
I find some stations have a relaxed approach to the way ladies dress up, so that’s a positive sign I guess. I know it will take a long time for the Army to open up to the spirit of an independent woman, and leave the choice of dress to her. Whenever it happens, I am sure the girls would eagerly wait for the ‘saree-wala’ function and happily drape this Indian outfit.
Having said that, let me boast about the incredibly stylish Army wives and their stash of sarees…but all that in the next post.
Meanwhile Fauji biwiyon, show some love to the awesome #100sareepact krantikaris (Krantisaris?) Anju Kadam and Ally Matthan on their website, Facebook page and twitter to share your own saree stories.
*Patti Parade is a kind of punishment Army officers go through during their training in which they have to wear all their uniforms one after the other in a small time bracket.