I come from family where sari was worn every day, my mother and masi were teachers in the University and I stayed in the campus where everyone wore saris to work. Even the school teachers those days wore saris everyday. Salwar-kurta was not the dressing norm till much later in my lifetime.
Every year change of season was a sari ritual – cottons and chiffons were to be kept inside and tussars and silks would come out. I was always fascinated by saris and when I grew up, I took over this annual ritual of season change. I never got bored, it was always a beautiful experience of holding different type of saris in various colours of spectrum, feel their textures and dream of the day when I would be able to carry them as elegantly as my mother. This ritual continues, my saris change intersections are Diwali and Holi every year.
My first sari was on Basant Panchami in the college, my masi’s sari – my mother was very sceptical of my carrying it well and not spoiling it, she did not want to risk any of her precious ones. This one was in beautiful Basanti yellow dyed in mulmul with a maroon Rajasthani border; after I wore this sari, it remained in my wardrobe and still is. From there, started my sari wearing journey, albeit few and far in between. This was also the time when my sari collection started to take shape, some of my Ikat Tussar and cotton saris in the collection were bought from a small Orissa Handloom shop in those days (the shop later closed down).
My mother’s sari collection was largely work-wear cotton and silk – block prints from Rajasthan in cotton and Kota, lot of Ikats – both from Orissa and Andhra, Bengal Jamdanis, some organza and chiffon for formal occasions, as well as few Kanjivarams and Banarsis for special wear. This was also the time when my father started travelling extensively across India, and he would pick up saris from other places.
It was only when I started working that my Mother started buying me saris to wear – few Banarsis for formal wear, some georgettes and chiffons for work wear – she still was not sure of my ability to manage saris. But this was also the time when I started buying saris for myself as well as for my mother. And I experimented – I was staying very near to FabIndia in Mumbai those days and on weekends it was a nice walk through green Bandra to indulge myself. And there I became familiar with other kind of saris – my very first buys were Maheshwaris and Chanderis – both for work and formal wear, and I still have them and wear them often. I bought them for her as well – her first Maheshwari. And later on, lot more different styles of Ikat, some Banarasi and a few from FabIndia.
Later when I moved to Delhi, I started wearing saris more often at work. And thus, started building my collection properly – my favourite place to buy saris still remain that 1 km long stretch of state emporiums at Baba Kharak Singh Marg, and obviously FabIndia. I have also come to know of few exclusive places to buy saris, they are more pricey but a piece here and there to build the collection. The visits to home at Banaras also became occasions to buy saris, choicest of them over time.
My collection was inspired by my mother’s collection, so I initially bought lot of Rajasthani block prints as well as Orissa Ikat. I also inherited my masi’s collection of primarily South silks and Ikats in cotton and tussar when she passed away. But I also like to wear South cotton, Andhra Ikats. I invested in Banarasi cottons and Ikat silks for formal wear. I love wearing plain silk saris with Banarasi brocade blouses. My very first and only Dhakai is a gift from a very dear friend. I bought a beautiful Kanjivaram on an office trip to Chennai, a couple of Kalamkari ones from exhibitions in Delhi.
India has so much to offer, each state has a different art story to tell; beautiful handlooms, different weaving techniques and if not that, then painting and embroidery to create varied yarns of warp and weft. But slowly, I am gravitating towards Ikats and south cotton as my preferred style, and Banarsis for making a statement. That also means that some of the current collection needs pruning. I prefer heavy versions than lightweight saris – so I no longer buy Kota and chiffons.
My wishlist is hoping to own a Patan Patola one day, a Telia Rumal, a hand-painted Pattachitra as well as a Machalipatnam Kalamkari sari, a Kashmiri embroidered Pashmina, a Rekha-style Kanjivaram, old Banarasi weaves and maybe one Zardozi sari.
Like my book story, I have lot more saris to wear than have worn. But I love wearing saris – period!