A voice crooning, “Kate nahin kat te ye din yeh raat…,” Sridevi, and a wet blue sari. Can we ever forget that? That is possibly one of the most iconic cinematic images of our hormonal teenage growing-up years. I can’t say for sure, of course, but that Alisha-Kishore song, and most importantly, the imagery, might just have been the spark for the lifelong fascination with the 6 to 9 yard garment known as the sari.
Then the teenage years, and the hormones, kicked in. The sari would never be the same again.
The year: 1987. School.
Then came Sridevi and the song, and the blue chiffon. Sigh.
Forward to: 2002. College hostel. Saraswati Puja in Kolkata.
Year: 2005. University days in Pune.
I could barely believe it. Two amazing things had happened. First, I had a date for New Year’s Eve (someone actually agreed!). And second, she was wearing a black sari (yessss!), when we went to pick her up in my friend’s car on our way to the RSI Army Ball. I was also dressed smartly for a change, but how proud I felt to have that lady in beautiful black silk dancing with me that evening. She just stood apart from the usual skirt and dress wearing girls – resplendent and statuesque. I got a renewed respect for the sari that day. Of course she didn’t have much to do with me after that, but while my memory of her has faded, the memory of that sari remains distinct.
What explains this fascination men have for saris? The short answer is - I don’t know. I am sure experts will be able to provide psychological, Freudian, Jungian, Oedipal explanations. But what I know is this – there is no other dress that enhances women’s intrinsic beauty like the sari does. And it doesn’t ever get old. How can it? Look at the variety! Look at the styles! Imagine in your mind’s eye, Malayali women in cream and gold huddled around a rangoli celebrating Onam, and then the Bengalis celebrating Durga Puja in their white and red bordered saris, smearing sindur on each other. Imagine Gayitri Devi in the finest silk and Rekha in a Kanjeevaram; remember Indira Gandhi in handloom weaves, and Raja Ravi Verma’s ladies in Paithanis.
It’s been a long relationship - saris and me, and I still cannot get enough. Of course I might be open to charges of sexism, and I have been told so by women occasionally, because I extol the aesthetic virtues of the sari apparently without caring for the difficulties women face in wearing and getting around in them.