Friday, October 19, 2012

Story of a Saree

It was a nippy evening in 1974 that Dad decided to surprise my mother. He had bought her a saree. Dhirubhai Ambani had recently launched the Vimal brand. 'Only Vimal' as people knew it. There was a sparkling showroom in Ahmedabad, one of their firsts. Dad went there and chose the one in the latest design. It wasn't easy but he wanted to do it for his new bride.

Without much stage setting he simply handed the saree over to mom and waited to see her expression. Hoping it would be of pure joy.

He wondered why she was taking so much time in reacting. All she had to do was open the packet, take the saree out and react! But she was taking forever....

She held the saree and the little piece of paper it came with firmly in each hand and kept looking at them for some time.

Gift wrapping and writing cards were not a very middle class thing to do then. Nor were removing the price tags. Especially when it cost a fortune. Spending Rupees 140/- for a saree meant a huge expense when you could buy 10 grams of gold for Rupees 500/-. Those days everything was compared to the gold prices. Leaving the invoice sitting pretty in the shopping bag was not a very intelligent thing he had done.

Not wanting to sound unhappy, she said, "Isn't the colour a bit dull? Like the kinds older women wear?"

A brand new marriage is no place where subtlety and finer interpersonal skills hold fort. It is not just passion and love that runs high. Disappointment, hurt, anger, anti-climax....they all run a full power packed course.

After a heated argument, he finaly asked her, "Do you like it or not?"

"No, I don't like it!", she replied.

He simply picked it up and chucked it out of the window.

She was horror struck.

He walked to the living room. She ran downstairs to get it back.

That is the story of the first saree he ever gifted her. It wasn't meant to be in the house even for a day. But now, after 38 years, it is still in pristine condition. I wore it a couple of days back. I called dad and told him how everyone loved it. The design, the colour, the material. It was precious.

He said, "But she didn't like it when I got it for her."

I knew it is not easy for him to hear about me going gaga over it when mom is not around. I realised it and almost shut up when he continued, somewhere salvaging the pride and a fairy tale that wasn't so perfect, "But she liked the fact that it was a very practical saree. It could be washed easily. It dried fast if it got wet in the rain. It was lightweight. It didn't need to be ironed, especially with children around. Oh she used it a lot."

As a woman I know it was all that and somewhere hidden beneath layers of utalitarian thinking there also snuggled the first blush of the first gift a wife recieved from her husband. I still cherish the pearl drops my husband Partha gave me.

To me this is the gist of a middle class marriage. Emotions gift wrapped in practicality which mature and come into their own over the years.

Mom wearing the saree in April 1976
Me wearing the same saree in October 2012


  1. :( :) I don't know what to say Vandu....

  2. nothing to say dear....emotions weave such a fine fabric...all we can do it wrap it around and pray the warmth stays

  3. Emotions add value to the 'material item' - that is always the experience.

  4. as always...loved to read this one also..di..thanx for sharing such nice things.

  5. Memories which are still green!
    As 'child is the father of man',may I be allowed to say that daughter is the mother of woman! :-)

  6. You could have done without that pose and stood at ease as your mom did so elegantly :)

    For me, saree is the next best creation after women!

  7. @aativas, yes I believe so too.

    @neeta, thx dear. u keep coming on the blog...reading and hopefully liking what u see. that itself is such pat on the back for me :)

    @kavs, yeah...precious and precocious too ;) as destiny rightly puts it...she stands so elegantly and me like a poser bear :)

    @arvind, ha ha u could say that I guess

    @arvind, now u know why parents keep saying the gen next is not as classy as the gen before....u have documentary evidence :) I love sarees too. A pain to mix, match and get stitched but once the ensemble is is sheer grace!


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