About 10 years ago, while I was pursuing my studies in the US, I went to India during my semester break. On a casual Saturday afternoon, I made shopping plans with my cousin and we decided to go to General Bazaar, a very well-known shopping market in Secunderabad. It is popularly referred to as a twin-city of Hyderabad, the capital of the south-Indian state of Telangana.
With tiny shops on either side of a narrow street, this busy street-side market is usually bustling with shoppers walking in and out of shops trying to get the best bargains. You can hear the shopkeepers sitting at the cash counters, calling you in either Telugu or Hindi – “Madam, Madam, dresses, sarees, kotha collection chudandi Madam”, “Andar aao Madam, naya collection dekho” (come inside, see our new collection of sarees, dresses).
It was almost sunset and all the shopping made us hungry. Hands full of shopping bags and with hope to find a chaat/pani-puri wala, we were exiting the market. As I was passing by the last couple of shops, through the display windows of a shop, I laid my eyes on a saree. Bright mango-yellow in color, green and golden floral motifs all over, with a hint of pink and golden zari on the border, it was beautiful. I went in. “How much is this saree?”, I asked, pointing to it. “Only Two Thousand Rupees madam, pure handloom cotton, very good quality, take it!” – said one of the shop assistants.
As a student in the US, I rarely had occasions to wear sarees. I never even purchased a saree by myself before. Confused, I gave my cousin an elbow nudge and whispered, “Is this worth the price?”. She looked at me and said – “Do you really want to buy a cotton saree? It is difficult to drape. When will you even wear it?” I had no answer. “Buy something flowy and easy to drape, instead” – she suggested. I shrugged, looked at the sari indecisively and walked out of the shop. Two servings of pani-puri and an auto-rickshaw ride later, we reached home. The saree was forgotten.
Few days later, I happened to go to the same market. This time I was alone. I passed by the same shop and the yellow saree was still there in the display window. Convinced that I needed that saree, I went in and bought it. Very happy with my purchase, I went home and showed it to Amma. “Saree is nice, but when will you wear it? It will just sit in your cupboard”, Amma said. And that is exactly what happened. A few days later, I went back to the US. The saree sat in my cupboard, forgotten yet again.
Two years passed. I came back to India, I got married. Determined to wear only sarees as a new bride, I went through the cupboard at my Mom’s house and there it was – that yellow saree, still new and crisp. A few days later, as newly-weds, me and my husband were invited to have lunch at a relative’s place. I decided to wear my yellow saree, being extra careful to drape it as elegantly as possible. My husband was waiting for me outside. “Are you done getting ready?” – he asked, leaning on his bike and looking into his phone. “Yes, ready, ready, let’s go!” I stepped out of the house as I said bye to my Mother-in-law. I walked around my husband towards the rear of the bike. He gave me a side glance, smiled and started the bike. I turned to sit sideways behind him and he said “Looking very good, this saree suits you well!”.