The Saree Conundrum: To Wear or not to Wear

Written By

Sana Zehra

Saree conundrum Loading

I envy women in sarees. Not the sloppily worn sarees, but the immaculately ironed, perfectly pleated and effortless ones – worn by women who scuttle about with such ease, it’s almost petrifying to me! Let me tell you why.

I find sarees irresistible. That a simple nine-yard cloth can be turned into one of the most iconic dresses on the planet, is nothing short of a prodigy. But the greater feat lies in draping the interminable piece of cloth perfectly. I love the end, not the means. Chennai hasn’t been kind to me on this front, for one can get bombarded with such women anywhere and everywhere. From executives to house helps, the good old sari still enjoys its status of being an everyday attire. The moment I spot a woman from the saree-d clan – I’m ogling with all my sight to fathom how many safety pins (and hours) it would have taken her to drape this sari to be able to walk with such a hands-free demeanour. I have examined air hostesses and maids, teachers and saleswomen, bankers and random women on the street. Nothing fishy there – it’s just a girl trying to figure out stuff.

“We used to wear saris and do all the household chores”, is something that I grew up listening from my grandmothers and mother, never quite imagining how that would be true. Ask me now, and I can tell you how you to gather all pleats and tuck them into your petticoat, and voila, you could playkabaddi! Mind it, I can only tell you, not do it. That’s where the envy comes from.

The year 2017 began with the aim to resolve the paradox of “Don’t step into the water until you know how to swim”, and thus came my resolution: wear sarees more often because practice makes perfect. Give me unlimited time, and I can drape it pretty well, but it is the challenge of doing it when I have 15 minutes at the most to get ready. When I see women who come to work every day in sarees – my mind is swinging between two possibilities: she either has a maid to help (who probably wears a saree too) or is as natural at carrying the saree as a cat is at carrying her fur.

Here’s a little more perspective into what got me into this whole thing. Have you seen one of those huge ethnic wear shops with infinite stocks and huge mirrors that make your eyes pop out in amazement and greed? Yep, the ones which turn your shopping experience into a battle with the self because you just can’t have it all even if you’re getting married. This was when I was shopping for my trousseau. Scanning the shelves and bouncing off colours, and ignoring the imaginary resplendent reflections that the salesmen mercilessly conjured up, my eyes found their way to the silk section and I contented myself with a few work wear sarees, because “oh-I-can-wear-them-more-often.” Today they fill my cupboards and my heart with guilt, together with the occasional impulsive purchases I made recently. Ironed sarees have been looking down at me from their hangers waiting for their day out in the sun. Most of them never got to see the light of the day (you see, most of them were worn only on dinners or special occasions at night). I’d inevitably end up wearing a suit or kurta to work and bump into one of those perfect sari-clad women. Again. “Enough!” I thought to myself one day, “If they can, I can too.” I must confess here though that the preparation for a saree day starts a night before: matching shoes out of the rack, accessories neatly spread, bag all ready, breakfast prepped – and then it’s me and my saree for thirty minutes in the morning.

A couple of months have passed since the year started. So far, I think I have done better than the previous years, but I’m waiting for the day when wearing a saree will not feel like a task anymore; when the pleats will dance in my fingers and in a single, perfect stroke, I’ll feel a part of the clan that I envy. May be it is too much wishful thinking. But it’s definitely a lot lesser guilt.




I’m a Delhi University gold medalist and currently a work-from-home based content head and part-time coaching faculty member for the CAT exam. Proud to call Lady Shri Ram College for Women as my Alma Mater, I am married and live in Chennai. Cooking is my passion by compulsion, caught in a blitzkrieg of North and South Indian flavours. I love experimenting with food, the latest one being a blueberry cheesecake, and my ever appreciative husband is happy to oblige me with his opinions.

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