My dear Daughter,
Eliot once wrote about measuring out life with coffee spoons. No average beverage for me. I have something better. I am a hoarder. I collect saris. They are not just clothes but motifs of my life. Six yards of splendor draping every memorable moment freezing it for all eternity.
A dust-pink and white chiffon creation swaying on the hanger is where my love affair with saris began. Surprising though it may seem I had nothing to do with its selection. My parents, who had opposing views about everything in life, had for a change, concurred. I was fifteen then and it was the farewell party at school. I remember looking at myself in the mirror that evening and actually liking the girl-woman who looked back at me. I looked taller, prettier. I felt confident. It didn’t matter, anymore, who my friends were, who tormented me, oh whatever! I was ready to put it all behind me. I want you to keep this sari with you as it will remind you, your mother was young once, and stepped into life with the same hesitation that you are showing now.
You will love the chiffons that I have -especially the green metal chiffon creation. It was the first sari I bought with my first salary. I don’t wear chiffon now, but this sari has a special place in my wardrobe as it is symbolic of my independence. It marks my transition from being just a dependent daughter to an independent woman. I want you to have it and remember the pride I felt, to be able to pay for it with my own money, drawn from my own bank account. A gorgeous yellow and red south cotton sari is much faded and wrinkled, but is tinged with a bittersweet flavour, for it was the first sari my husband- to- be bought me. Yes, there were such misguided illusory moments between the two hostile creatures who cannot even exchange a civil word now. Difficult to believe, right? I don’t know my old self anymore. If I happened to meet her, I would slap her hard and ask her to get a reality check! Well, that’s another story altogether!
Do ensure to let my old silks see the light of the sun and toast themselves in the warmth of the day especially after the monsoons and in winter. At the same time remember, too much sunlight makes the colour fade. It’s all about finding the perfect balance. Starch your cottons and iron them out before they are completely dry. As you smooth the creases, you will iron away all the worries that creep up on you unawares. The most mundane of tasks often help you keep your sanity, when things threaten to overwhelm. Just keep pushing, no matter what.
My wedding saris with their intricate zari work and embroidery may seem old-fashioned but I’m sure will be revived soon just like how short sleeves are now back in fashion. You never know how precious these antique saris may turn out to be. By the way, the green and brown Kanjeevaram sari belongs to my mother. It was her wedding sari. Treasure it like you would an heirloom. I know I did.
Wear silks more often. You will feel regal and help them live longer. Nothing damages a sari more than disuse. Just like your talents dear, use them well.
I have been accused of being very particular about dressing, obsessive even. Was I? Am I? I don’t know. I’m at the stage when I don’t care anymore. I can now look people in the eye and tell them to mind their own business. I dress for myself and not to please others.
It all began with a colleague asking me, ’You have many saris this shade of pink, don’t you?’ That was sarcasm, meant to cut like a knife because the truth was obvious to everybody. The truth was I had just one pink sari. Don’t get me wrong. I did have a dozen silk saris and a couple of cottons but I never thought people noticed what you casually wore to work. As long as you were presentable, I thought that was all that mattered. But, no, evidently people were looking for ways and means to sharpen their claws at your expense. And so I began to splurge. And I noticed I felt better with each purchase. I dripped charm, oozed confidence and people actually thought I was this smart career woman who looked the picture of success.
And that just begins to explain why I bought so many. When life presents you with problems, you can either do something about it or take it lying down. Your father had a misguided sense of excessive loyalty to his family- at the cost of compromising on our little plans. I could not retaliate, so I did it the best way I know how. I went out and treated myself to a sari or a few depending on the extent I was hurting. Yes, it felt good. The world is full of go- getters and sad weepers. When you can be neither, learn to be kind to yourself. But well, I could afford it. I was earning, right? I still am.
Don’t be taken in by the people who tell you the surface does not matter. First impressions count. And the so- called intellectuals who dress in carefully dressed down creations, have to really co-ordinate the casual all- thrown- together look. It takes a lot of effort and money. Things need to be simple and simplicity costs money.
So every festival, occasion and trivial matter finds me buying a sari to mark it. I buy myself a sari for your birthday before I get you your dress because I need to celebrate the day I gave you life. It’s more my day than yours.
I buy from stores, friends, colleagues and sales. I make it a point to pick up a sari from all the places I travel. Your father buys me saris to assuage his guilt. I look radiant at the very sight of his gifts. So now you understand why we fight often? We don’t kiss and make up. I get saris instead.
Why am I writing about saris? You see I have a passion for collecting books and music too. Books and music have a voice of their own. You will understand. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about my indulgence in clothes. I want you to know.
Take time off to journey in the sensual drapes of exquisite texture and colour and get in touch with your femininity. Revel in it.
If you do decide that all this is rather overwhelming, you can give them all away. Generosity of spirit is good. However, ensure you give it all away to the deserving. Rightful Charity, to people who deserve it and need the clothes to add dignity to life. For, clothes often define lives. More than one knows. More than one can understand. More for people who can’t afford it. Most for holding your head high, keeping your dignity intact and your expression unruffled in the face of adversity.
Just keep one to remember me by.
Your loving Mother.
( Simplicity )