My husband says I thrive on nostalgia. And that seems to be true. Today I was reading Smitha’s latest post on textures and I was pulled back into nostalgia yet again. Any South Indian worth their salt would attest to the fact that a collection of silk sarees is what a South Indian woman is most proud of, after her kids, that is! So was my ammamma, my mom’s mom.
She had a huge collection of Kanchi, Kota, Patolla, Pochampally, Venkatagiri, Gadwal and many more(these are the ones I know) and kept them all wrapped up in an old, soft cotton saree in her almirah. I remember when she thought she was done with wearing pattu sarees(this was after my grandfather died, she was a very traditional woman), she gave them away to her five daughters. Among the sarees my mom got was one maroon with yellow border. This one also had huge yellow polka dots on the body, and a green and yellow cheques Kanchi saree. Both were gorgeous but they were too treasured to be ever worn again by my mom. She kept them wrapped up, in a soft cotton saree, of course.
Ammamma only wore traditional silk sarees, ones with a large border and a solid body, my mom’s silk/pattu saree collection on the other hand spanned the whole gamut from traditional ones to modern takes on silks like turning/temple border, non-south Indian types like Paithani, Kora, Ikat, Narayanpet, to what I call ‘light’ silks like Mysore silk and raw silk. And the way my mom takes care of her sarees is amazing. She must have like a 100 different ones, that she wraps up in bundles, each bundle having a specific type of sarees. So she would not mix her traditional silk with her everyday wear Mysore silk, she separates her silk sarees by type. Cottons are also separated by Bengal Cotton or other cotton, another bundle holds all her garden sarees, and finally there is a bundle with all ‘special’ sarees, like her wedding saree, the sarees she wore for our namakaran etc. Now she doesn’t just let her sarees sit in bundles statically until she has a chance to wear them. No! She takes a bundle out every other week, airs the sarees for a couple of hours, then changes the saree folds so the inside becomes the outside, and puts them back.
Oh but we were talking about pattu saree memories here, not about how to organize sarees. For as long as I can remember, there is a whole process for selecting what saree to wear to a family event. Of course at a family event one HAS to wear a silk saree, and given that my mom has 4 sisters and a brother and a HUGE extended family, there are always weddings, engagements, namakarans, major birthdays, gruhapraveshams, shashtipurthis and the like. A few days before an event there is a whole saree selection ritual that takes place. My mom’s sisters call one by one, and they talk about what they are wearing and what she is wearing, so as to ensure that there are no color clashes at the said event. Also, sometimes the sisters have similar sarees in different colors, so they also need to ensure that no 2 sisters are wearing the same type of saree, then the discussion drifts to what jewelry goes with which saree. My mother is the youngest and she is influenced a lot by what my sister and I tell her about accessorizing, but her older sisters believe in showing off ALL THEIR JEWELRY at big events like weddings. So there is a whole discussion about how my mother should add maybe one more gold necklace to the already heavy gold necklace she plans on wearing. Then there would be another discussion about how her daughters don’t want her to overload on gold blah blah! Well, after such similar discussions with the remaining sisters, my mom would proceed to air out the chosen one(saree) and keep the blouse and underskirt ready…phew! On the day of the event there would be detailed appraisals of the sarees and jewelry and the styling etc. All this was very amusing to me, but participating in this tedious affair was never my forte. While my mom took to all this like a fish in water, I was always flailing my limbs at the prospect of having to dress up!
In spite of my reluctance to dress up, if there is ever one thing I would love is to have a collection of beautiful silks. A collection that would make the South Indian woman in me proud. Not a huge one, but a modest one, with maybe a Kanchi, a Kota, a Pochampally, a couple of Mysore silks, a Gadwal, and oh! a paithani too! Then I would air them out every few weeks, just like my mom does, and look at them lovingly. That would be my treasure, to be passed on to my children, if they are interested, that is!