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Though I’m a modern woman, I love wearing a saree for occasions, and also sometimes just like that – and I wonder, why is it that many Indian women look down upon it?
I am a traditional woman who respects cultural traditions. But I am also a modern woman who respects a person’s individuality and embraces change. On any Indian occasion, I love wearing a saree. I feel that on these Indian cultural events, I should comply and respect the attire brought down by my grandmothers and mothers. But on other days, I am also most comfortable wearing a western dress.
I always hear Indian women talking about how wearing a saree is so difficult, and how it takes them hours to wear one. Then these same women go all traditional and talk about how it is the duty of the woman to serve freshly and hot cooked food for their husbands when they come back from work! In my house, my husband heats up the food for dinner as I cook up the rest of the meals of the day. Yes I have no regrets or shame in doing that.
I am presenting a society with very dual opinions. On one hand, these so called traditional Indian women cannot even wear a saree and yet they mock me for being western. These women laugh and ridicule me for wearing a dress. What is so difficult in draping yourself in 6 yards of beautiful fabric? Sarees are super soft and it hardly takes 10 minutes to wear one. We expect an Indian woman to cook and clean the house. That is a task that has been learnt. But then why can’t we learn about wearing a saree and be comfortable in it? I am a Bengali girl and in our customs, we wear sarees on festival days. It makes me feel a bond with my late grandmothers. When I wear a saree I am reminded of them.
Being modern does not mean that we give up even our beautiful traditions – like wearing a saree for occasions or even on a random day when you feel like it. Indian women embrace western culture and talk about being free from the shackles of Indian customs. But have they ever seen that these western women on their festival days like Christmas wear their traditional attire. We feel that they are wearing a skirt or a dress; but when you look closely, you will see that it is of a particular design and style. It is semi-formal or formal. If they can follow this tradition, then why can’t we Indian women wear sarees on our cultural events? It seems ridiculous.
I am tired of explaining to people why I am wearing a saree on a particular day. I feel that there should not be any special occasion. There are days when I just want to wrap myself in that saree, and bring back fond memories of how my grandmother would say that always wear something comfortable and grand. My grandfather loved to see me wear bangles. When I drape that saree on me, I adorn it with intricate jewellery and that bindi.
It’s not a saree symbolizes an Indian woman, but it is one of those unique characteristic clothing of India. Why do we look down upon someone for wearing a saree and feel that they are old-minded? Why do we not see a woman in a saree as being highly successful? Why was Sudha Murthy, the chairperson of Infosys Foundation, looked down upon and scorned for wearing a saree in London? She wore what she felt comfortable in and yet other Indian women, shockingly, laughed and mocked her. Why do we have to wear Western clothes when we are not in India or are mixing in elite parties? Have we no respect for our Indian attributes?
I am not ashamed of being an Indian. I love the saree. I am very selective in buying sarees as they have to be as soft as cotton, and look imposing. Our artisans spend hours in carefully crafting and weaving a saree. Every state in India has a few different styles of sarees. Each one talks about a story of why they originated in that state and one can learn about the history of that state from a saree. In some states, due to the hot weather, cotton sarees are preferred. Some states prefer rich embroidery work on their sarees like in Karnataka. I feel I am respecting our rich craftsmanship and our artisans. It is their livelihood and we should promote Indian products.
Yet I am not saying that one should always be covered in a saree, even though some people feel that a saree is the best attire for a Indian woman. The saree should instead be a symbol of tradition and modernism. It has evolved in design and style. It is recognized globally. We should be proud as an Indian to wear a saree and not just crib and cringe. I seriously don’t want to wear a saree to show I am a traditional Indian woman; but I wish to be known as an Indian woman who loves wearing a saree as someone who respects Indian crafts and is reminded of her heritage.
Image source: a screen grab from the movie English Vinglish
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