A few years ago during a particular Ayurveda video shoot in Mumbai, the director suggested that I wear a pair of trousers rather than my usual go-to outfit, a saree. Needless to say, I couldn’t help but ask why.
“We’ve hired you to be a spokesperson for modern Ayurveda,” he said. “Wearing a saree would be a misrepresentation of that.”
“How so?” I asked, curious to understand his take on ‘modern’ for a wellness culture that was 5,000 years old.
“Actually it’s about adapting the concept of Ayurveda for the modern Indian woman, someone who wouldn’t wake up in the morning and voluntarily decide to wear a saree.”
Seriously? Since when had sarees become old-fashioned? Had I missed something in all my years living abroad?
Then, this week I found out that Air India has replaced its trademark red and black flight attendants’ saree uniform for trouser suit instead. Air India! India’s ambassador to the rest of the world — associated with the chubby Maharaja, sitar music on flight and yes, the saree-clad flight attendants! They were perhaps the last living proof to the outside world that we don our national dress for work and play. If Air India is ready to throw in the towel what does this mean for the rest of us?
In the last twenty odd years, I have chosen to wear sarees for no particular occasion whether I am in India or not. Sure it’s easier to do within the country since people don’t question why you choose to be ethnic or formal or make a statement. But even outside, I find it more practical to pick a saree over the perfect business suit or evening dress. And it’s not because I am trying to stand out…if anything the opposite. With my complexion and body shape, a saree makes much more sense than trying to compete with the slew of gorgeous women out there who can carry off a dress with the style that I couldn’t hope to achieve in a thousand lifetimes.
That said, since I have moved to Hong Kong, my saree wearing habit has been on the decline. And I have no good reason why.
So when my dear friend Anjeeta who I see more online than off, shared a post about the 100 saree pact on Facebook the other day, I jumped all over it. Ally Matthan and Anju Maudgal Kadam have embarked on a project that brings to mind the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, only this one is about sarees and all the great personal stories woven into their fabric. For me, it”s the perfect opportunity to bring my true self out of the closet.
Given that I have joined the movement well into the second quarter of the year, mathematics suggest that if I am to keep pace with the sisterhood, I should be donning about 70 sarees between now and December 31st this year . Whether that happens or not, I am definitely going to give it a go. Buddies be forewarned, I might just nominate some of you to join me on the journey.