Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two New Sarees


My resolve not to buy any new sarees is a fragile one, easily broken, as yesterday indicated. It's not that I have an insatiable urge to buy clothes or de-stress by shopping. But the appeal of yards of beautifully woven material lies in the fact that I love colours and have a soft spot for craftsmen. Saree weaving, an art in itself, is a dying tradition as mechanized looms take over and high quality yarn becomes expensive. Besides, many people (even older women) no longer wear sarees in the larger cities; salwar kameez and western outfits are more popular. Even when sarees are worn as formal wear, Bollywood apparel seems to dominate. In many of the weddings I have attended over the past two years, many people (especially the bride and members of her family) choose thin materials which are embroidered and studded with stones and crystal. I find it inelegant. But this is what the public seems to prefer.

Anyway, when I read in the newspaper that Vimor (an old Bangalore saree shop) was having a sale titled 'From My Grandmother's Cupboard', my resolve weakened. Vimor is a shop set up in the house of the feisty Coorgi lady, Chimy Nanjappa. She began working with weavers many decades ago, trying to revive old patterns and styles of weaving. Her daughter, Pavithra now does most of the work and apart from reviving, also designs her own sarees, some of which are traditionally inspired and some are modern abstract creations.

The exhibition was held in one of those beautiful, high ceiling-ed old houses, with red floors, wooden beams and terracotta tiles. The Vimor ladies remembered me and I met some of the next generation as well. It was a grand family affair and the men - clean shaven younger ones and walrus-moustached older ones sat behind a long table, gossipping and helping with the bills. The women, each wonderfully dressed, floated about, explaining the stories behind various sarees. A truly joyous occasion and under the circumstances how could I not buy a saree or two?

Well, two it was, after much deliberation, glancing into the mirror, looking at the sarees indoors and outdoors and so on... I took my time for there was a lot to see and think about and no one seemed to be in a hurry. On the contrary, more and more people were drawn in, each giving their views on the sarees and my selection. Just the usual rituals in fact which make saree shopping interesting.

I eventually chose two sarees - a lime green 'morning' one and a fancy evening one in shot purple silk - a mix of reds and blues over which were woven beautiful motifs in gold and silver (intermixed for a soft effect) in a non symmetric way. Everyone approved greatly and I left with a light and happy heart and a heavy package.



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