The Saree Saga

I am a south Indian by birth, a Konkani from Karnataka to be precise. Now, as most GSB konkanis would understand, we are not the typical Dravidians that every South Indian is expected to be, add to that the fact that I was raised across Gujarat for the better part of my life, which means sambar-anna is not my preferred cuisine, and rajnikant/ raj kumar is not my favorite hero. But the one thing South Indian that I swear by, is the Silk Saree. This is partly due to my Mom’s love for them and also the fact that all other sarees are difficult to carry 😛

Right from school ethnic days to college farewells and convocations, I have always borrowed mommy’s sarees and had new blouses stitched for them. So it was established long before my wedding that all sarees would be silk, and none of them would be bought from Bombay!

However, mommy also wanted me to have a collection of sarees from across India. “Its not like you are going to buy sarees all the time, so it’s good to start with at-least one saree of each variety”. And so it happened that we bought a Paithani saree when we were passing through Yeola (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paithani), a Baluchari (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baluchari_Sari) when we were in Bengal, a Benarasi (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banarasi_sari) and then a Dharmavarm (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmavaram_handloom_pattu_sarees_and_paavadas) each. However, when it was time to do some actual wedding saree shopping, we always knew it would be Kanchipuram calling. The place is the abode of silk sarees after all.

It is believed that the saree weavers of Kanchipuram, are descendants of a sage, who used to weave for the gods. Hence, these sarees, are supposed to be sacred, a blessing from the gods, and are therefore the saree of choice for most good occasions, weddings, poojas etc.

There is also the Mysore silk and others, but somehow this one is preferred over the rest. I personally think its more to do with comfort. Mysore silks are really pretty, but also very slippery, not the best for a bride, who has never worn sarees for such long hours before!

And so it was decided that all sarees for the wedding, for family and for all the gifts, would be bought in Kanchipuram. Dad has a colleague who said his wife’s family knew many weavers there and offered to accompany us there and get us the best deals.  With all of this in place, I realized I did not have sufficient leaves to spend 3 days shopping for sarees in a faraway town. It was therefore decided that mom-dad would head there first with said colleague (let’s call him Mr. M), and Bapa-Pachi (that’s what we Konkanis call our paternal uncle and aunt) would join them from Bangalore. They would do a recce of all the shops, finish the shopping for gifting and all relatives and I would join them on the last day for choosing my sarees alone. This one day of leave would be thanks to a “no-docs required for a 1 day sick leave” policy!

I arrived on day 3 of the Kanchipuram trip, to find out that all had not been well between the ladies and Mr. M & his FIL. They had refused to let the women enter any shop where they did not have contacts and would not gain commission, and most places where they did have contacts were apparently no good! By the end of day 1, the women had been very irritated and had threatened my dad that no shopping would happen if he did not get rid of Mr. M and the FIL. On Day 2, Pachi had gotten in touch with the weaver from whom all of her wedding sarees had come, and it was decided that they would pay him a visit. This family of weavers are located in Walajapet and do not have a shop per se, it’s only a house where they stock all their latest weaves.  Finally the women had found what they wanted and they bought some 10 sarees for the older and slightly distant relatives.

So when I arrived on day 3, we were left with at least 20 more sarees to be chosen and bought. Ladki, Ladki ki maa and ladki ke close relatives included! It was also decided that the we would buy most of this from Prakash Silks, as they were the most popular saree shop in town, and also because mom had shopped there before and liked their salesmanship. (http://www.prakashsilks.com/)

Kanchipuram.in_Kamakshi-Amman_Temple_-_panoramio_-_SINHA

We began the day with a visit to the Kanchi Kamakshi temple, seeking divine blessing for a smooth and fruitful day of shopping, and then started with the mission at hand.

Prakash Silks was already ebbing with people when we got there. But the good man at the door found us a suitable place and two young and energetic salesmen. In most such shopping experiences, the salesman is very important, and it is essential that he understand your choices and preferences and is willing to show you at least 20-30 sarees before you get a grasp of the colors or patterns and start choosing. It is also equally important that the buyer remain calm and patient in the first few minutes, sometimes hours, of the shopping, and allow the salesman to understand what you want.

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Peach and Pink Checks

We therefore decided to warm up by looking for sarees for ancillary events and then go for the “main saree”. As the salesman got bunch after bunch of sarees, my “no pink saree” vision for the wedding seemed to be fading away!

 

I was enlightened that I was the only bride on the floor that day who had vehemently refused pink!! We finally found 1 saree that was not the worst shade of pink, one that I could live with, and also another pink and peach one. We also found another beautiful saree, with a broad golden border of elephants, peacocks and deers. The motifs were sligtly less traditional, but very delicately done, and looked exquisite. This was my favourite saree yet! Me and mom called it the Hathi-Ghoda Saree!  Now we asked him for the main wedding saree.

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The Hathi-Ghoda Saree

A Konkani Bride’s wedding saree is usually draped in the kache style, and there is also an “aadwarl”, a white cloth that is worn over the saree like a dupatta. In most cases this saree is of red or maroon color, the usual wedding colors, and this also ensures a good match with the white aadwarl. (read details on the aadwarl and the wedding rituals here https://mostlytalkative.wordpress.com/2017/04/02/the-gsb-vhardik-ii/)

The salesman, by now aware of our sober, non-flashy requirements, got us 3 maroon and gold sarees to choose from, and in our quickest move yet, we had chosen one amongst these 3 as the main wedding saree.

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Maroon and gold with traditional Peacock Motifs

Bride’s sarees chosen, we now proceeded to find sarees for mommy and Pachi. This too was a time-consuming task and involved at least 2 rounds of coffee. By the end all 3 of us, and my sister, had sarees we liked. Pachi had a cram and red one, in line with her liking. My sister had a grey and pink one that had been chosen over phone calls and Whatsapp images! And mom had found three really pretty sarees, an orange checks one, similar to mine, for twinning purposes! A cream and green one for the reception. And another beautiful mustard and purple one. With broad borders, half-and-half shades, and not a lot of gold. We called this one the “Sarabhai saree”. By now it was 2pm, Prakash Silks was bursting with people, and there was absolutely no place to set foot. They had to call in additional reinforcement, just to hold the crowds out! All this on a weekday, mind you.

After this, another 10 sarees were chosen for the cousins, aunts and grannies in quick succession. We were amazed by our own speed as it took us all of 25 mins to choose these 25 sarees, and all of them were close to the wearer’s tastes.

All sarees ticked off our list, we proceeded to bill payment, which is a gruesome task involving checking each saree, and ensuring they are packed in our order of preference. It also involves counting and recounting the total purchase and then making the payment.  By now we were all suitably tired and proceeded to the nearby Saravana Bhavan for a late lunch.

Back in the hotel, the total purchase was laid out for everyone to inspect, and each box was labelled to specify the wearer/ occasion. It was also decided that all gifts would be given away when my parents visited relatives to invite them for the wedding, thus saving time on D-day. This decided, the sarees were divided into Bangalore and non-Bangalore lots. And while Pachi took the Bangalore lot with her, we brought back all the Non-Bangalore sarees home. The flight back home and the day after, were spent discussing each saree in great depth and finally tucking them away until further required.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Unless you are having a saree specifically woven for you, you’ll have to compromise on either the color or the design and border
  2. If you don’t like something in what the salesman is showing you, tell them specifically why you don’t like it, helps them understand your taste better
  3. Shopping is a patience game through and through, being patient with your salesman is almost always rewarded.
  4. Contacts may not always give you the best results, even in India!!!

 

 

 

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