TEXT AND PHOTOS BY REVATI VAIDYA
Aai tied her hair up in a bun, boiled some chicken, put the curry leaves in a pan to fry and hummed to Rekha on the radio. Within moments, the room was filled with spices, agarbatti, memories and 70s Bollywood. I was talking to aaji on the phone, and she said to me, “My paithani (sari) must be suffocating in the almirah, why don’t you take it out and have a look at it. See Reva, you’ll also have to wear the same sari and pass it on to your daughter at the occasion of her marriage.” I said nothing, I was giggling. I’m sure aaji heard me smiling though the phone.
I locked the room and took out the sari, which hung within air and dust in baba’s most loved old aged almirah. Spun in pure cotton and fiercely tangerine in colour, its gold brocade border glistened in the morning light. I carried it out to the verandah with quiet baby steps. There it was, in all it’s glory. My forefinger touched it’s softness, my hands grazing across the perfection, it signified our culture and the traditions we passed on with such immense love. The traditions unknowingly inherited from our ancestors. I spent inordinate amount of time just staring at the beauty.
I draped the six yards of elegance with uneven pleats, carefully adjusting the palu and trying not to disturb the worn out weathered ends. I looked at myself in the mirror, and the only thing I could see was the reflection of aaji and aai in me. Much to my surprise, despite the six odd decades that it had been in our family, it still looked fresh from the kaar khaana, as if untouched and unworn. My heart was expanding with happiness. The sunlight created a magical halo around me.
Maybe it wasn’t about marriage. Maybe it was about our beautiful tradition, about passing them on through the generations and above all, about respect. Le passé, the past has now become too sweet for me. I’m going back in time to experience and be consumed by the events that don’t belong to me, but to my ancestors- all because of six yards of fabric. The two most beautiful women in my life wore it on their marriage and maybe for a moment, they too stood the same way in front of a stained mirror, dissolving in their thoughts. Maybe the thoughts I thought to be my own had also been passed down into me.
Isn’t it amazing how our family vividly lives through the traditions we adopt? All they wanted was to see me wearing this sari once and be heavily coloured in the same hues of nostalgia and customs that they once had. And there it was, my moment. Even though there was no marriage on cards anytime soon, there was my unraveled love for family and our traditions.
It’s not me who found the sari, it found me. It graced me today.