Its my annual one in a million grumblings time to wear a saree. Tomorrow. With Ganapati puja at home, and the compulsion, that one should be presentable as a hostess for a religious function, and not look like one is just about to hot foot it to the nearest pub to drown one’s sorrows in a vodka shot. Though I must be very uncool and confess its been a while since I have been inside a pub. Over five years to be precise. And as to the downing of them vodka shots, I think, a year since any alcohol passed through the gullet, spare a Breezer or two that one downed on a very depressing birthday one celebrated in June.
But religious functions are occasions to bring on the costume drama. I like dressing up if i have all the time in the world to do so. Primp up proper. But between scurrying like a house rat with the onerous task of playing hostess, I would have preferred staying in my 80 per cent lycra jeans with a kurti as my sole concession to the ethnicism of the occasion.
Therefore the saree. Therefore the agony. Let me explain. In terrifying detail. I am a lazy dresser. I need two items of clothing I can throw on and run out of the house. And this mandates stuff that I dont need to go crazy coordinating. Self explanatory as to why black and denim form the vertebra of my wardrobe. Think of Einstein. He had a cupboard full of the same black suits I am told. So he didnt need to bother his head with what to wear everyday. Saved him a hell of a lot of time. I told the husband that, once, when I was feeling reckless and brave and ready to swagger out and conquer two worlds and not return with the pox, given that he’d just finished throwing four shirts and an assortment of tshirts on the bed to help him decide what to wear to go to the fish market. I dont think the fisherwoman’s charms have anything to do with it, its just him. He agonises between two Benetton basic tshirts. In white and grey. Can take him hours to decide if he is in a white mood or a grey. By which time, I am dressed and waiting. Have dressed the child and kept him waiting. And am in a black mood.
I am different. I plan out what I will wear a couple of hours in advance. In my head. I coordinate myself down to a tee. And then I throw on a black tshirt and a pair of jeans and sashay out. Wearing the same damn uncoordinated shoes, with the uncoordinated bag, and slap on the make up in the car. Over Mumbai’s potholed roads. Anywonder I sometimes catch a glimpse of myself in a glass window hours later looking like rubber lips himself, and curse the pothole that let the liner run away to Heath Ledger Jokeresque proportions.
For such a lazy dresser, a saree is the ultimate is masochism. For one, I have to ensure I have the damn matching blouse still available and not sacrificed to them termites and the arms still slide in and the buttons down front agree to meet. For another I have to organise an army of safety pins. For a third I have to find and iron out a matching petticoat, which I will invariably not find and end up borrowing a petticoat off the mother in law to find it reaches my knees, so I truly and completely end up looking like I just hopped off the ST bus from the heartlands. Save the plastic chappals and the altaa-ed cracked heels.
Then comes the morning of the big day. Invariably I will inspect self in the mirror from all angles while ostensibly showering, something I normally avoid like the plague, drawing shower curtain firmly and surely to block out such unpleasant sights the first thing in the morning, and concentrate on more pleasant thoughts which include a mental recitation of what sale awaits and beckons in the course of the day. The day I wear a saree though, I twist body around and do a double take on how the waist indent has morphed insidiously into tyres which could give MRF, Michelin and Apollo tough competition. I torture myself further by arranging vanity unit mirror in precise angle to reflect back as seen in the full length basin mirror and view horror of waist gone waste in gruesome detail. Ever want efficient and non intrusive means of birthcontrol. Let the man see your tyres and your stretchmarks. I check them out. Scary is not the word. If I could I would run screaming in terror from the sight. But, since its mine own, I grit teeth and ask the good lord to give me strength and view with the kind of narrowed horror struck gaze one normally reserves for movies like The Ring. You know. The horror, the horror.
How the concave stomach, the stuff that poets sang odes of sipping droplets of water off now is the kind of protuberance that could provide shelter to small animals in a rainstorm and the less said about the thighs the better. Lets just say I would make a hungry lion very happy. Having thus ensured that I demolished any smidgeon of self esteem I have left for body image and such like I will wonder if I can wrangle out of saree wearing for the day, and leaf through all the ethnic wear I have in the course of the day and then chicken out of it at the nth minute and reconcile self to wearing saree. Then get down to the business of leafing through the stash I have. I have not bought self a saree since I was married 12 years ago. Therefore, the choice is limited. Further limited by the fact that I distributed 80 percent of my trousseau sarees amongst family grateful for an opportunity to get rid of really awful ones I wouldnt be caught dead in, not to mention poking finger with pins in an effort to get them damn safety pins through the steel like silks.
And then I will think of Shilpa Shetty in the Om Shanti Om title track and give up all hopes of looking killer in the damn saree and reconcile self to looking aunty like and therefore go the whole aunty like way drawing on the K serials for inspiration, multiple necklaces of varying lengths, earrings so heavy the earlobes reach my knees, sindoor half way down my forehead and dramatic eyeliner that will invariably melt through the course of the evening and give me the panda eyed look that makes everyone pat me on the shoulder and ask me to sleep well and rest my poor over tired self. Maybe I should take Rekha as inspiration and continue to kid myself I can knock the socks off the best of them while the upper lung area moves defiantly to meet the stomach.
As for the saree it will be thrown on in a hurry. Pinned together with a ferocity that involves a packet of safety pins. Draped to the best of my nonexistent ability. I drape a saree decently, despite the fact that I never wear one more than twice a year. Probably vicarious. Comes from seeing the mother drape hers impeccably every morning before she set off for office. And she wore them starched to a crackle cotton types. Now of course, that she has retired and discovered salwar kameezes in awful polyesters, she needs a gun put to her head to get her to wear a saree.
Tomorrow. I wear a saree. Am already agonising about permutations and combinations. For one the damn blouses will not come together at the buttons. This despite letting out every margin left in by clever tailor who is knowing these arcane things of how blouses shrink when they’re left unattended in cupboards for too long. Then I will dig out my lifesaver go on anything gold tissue blouse and shriek because that too does not let the arm go in the sleeve. Then I will look at said arm and wonder if I can take a hacksaw to jiggly flab. Then I will tell the mother in law that damn it, (bravely), I am wearing a salwar kameez. Mother in law will then say sweetly, that perhaps I should try one of her blouses. And I will do so, snorting cynically that she’s damned if she thinks I’ve reached her proportions. And then find that the damn things fit perfectly. At which point Mother in law will smile beatifically and I will find my self esteem hovering around the vicinity of my knees. And she will say kind things like a fuller woman always looks nicer in a saree, for which I will promptly resolve to starve myself to skeletal proportions from the very next day. A resolution that I will ofcourse forget immediately when the next batch of pastries hit the refrigerator.
The choice for tomorrow is a russet red crepe with gold threadwork or a green gold tissue with gota work. Both easy to drape. And more importantly both sarees which can have the substitute gold tissue blouse go perfectly in case of an emergency.
Your humble vote is solicited. Red crepe or green tissue? Im thinking I’ll stick with the green. Red is kindof too bridal for my tastes. And of course, boodhi ghodi laal lagaam…