Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sarees From Bangladesh

Called Dhakais, though many are not woven in Dhaka, these are very special, gossamer thin sarees, woven from fine cotton or silk yarn. So when the Bangladeshi saree sellers appeared this year, I invited them home and asked a few friends to come and take a look at their collection.

I am now well acquainted with this particular saree seller and he says has kept a few sarees in mind for me (good salesmanship - but I am also happy to support weavers as saree weaving is a highly threatened industry today). The man comes home, as always refusing to drink anything until he finishes showing us the sarees. I enquire about his family - his sister who had an operation recently, his four year old daughter who is always upset when he leaves home, his elderly mother who still weaves sarees. He tells me that he is now raising money to build a house, which costs a lot and, in turn, asks about my relatives - potential customers in different towns and about my husband, who has an eagle eye for woven materials.

Then we proceed to the task at hand. Friends come by, settle themselves. The floor is covered with sheets on which the large bags are placed. Sarees are lifted out, stacked up and opened one by one. Each saree is opened, left for a while and then perfectly refolded. The materials are shown in increasig order of quality (and price) and the room is filled with colour and comments. Off whites (a traditional background colour) with small and large weaves, shimmering pastels, bright wedding reds, a few party blacks, cheery blues, cool greens, earthy yellows - there is a lot to choose from in terms of colours, patterns, weaves, materials.

Several of my friends are unfamiliar with Dhakais and the amount of work that goes into creating each saree - each textile is hand woven and takes a few months (upto a year for a very fine piece). I like introducing people to weavers so they may get an idea of what a hard and exacting task it is and just how beautiful the final products are (many of these cannot be easily found in shops). Saree wearing is on a decline in Indian cities, this is unfortunate because there are few outfits as beautiful as a well draped saree. The transparency of the Dhakais discourages some, but actually this just provides lightness and elegance along with the coolness that is needed in Indian summers. It is hard to explain theoretically that this flimsy looking saree is actually a wondrous creation!

Finally, sarees are short listed, prices discussed. We make frequent trips to view ourselves in full length mirrors, to drape sarees and make a final selection. This year I bought three - a cheery white saree with litte blue mangoes for everyday wear, an off white with grassy green motifs for miscellaneous occasions and an off white with large, flowing pink and green flowery patterns for more dressy moments.

Finally, the sarees were bundled back, refreshments served and happy goodbyes said - until next time!


illusions said...

Totally love the white and pink Dhakai, would love to buy one.

Sujata Varadarajan said...

I did buy that one!

Re-search said...

Hi, do you have the contact details of the dhakai sarees vendor by any chance, wld love to buy these sarees!

Sujata Varadarajan said...

Sorry, I didn't see your comment earlier. The saree seller is called Ranjit, his cell no. is 09972213477.

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