Buying my first saree was an experience like no other. Aunty (my landlord’s wife) came to get me, about ten minutes after the sun set, so we could go to the saree shop together. I’m so thankful she offered to help me. I would have had no idea where to go, what to buy or how to communicate with the salesmen. I got in the passenger side of her car, and we made our way through the crowded back-alley streets and to the main road. I had been to this shopping area once before, on my first trip to Opium, a nearby restaurant. We arrived in no time.
When I got out of the car, it was dark. I looked over at the shop, which was bright and sparkling. I saw mannequins in the windows, draped in beautiful sarees or wearing a salwar suit. The designs were bright, colorful, sparkling and altogether stunning. I opened the door for Aunty and we went inside. I took a moment to look around. The first thing I noticed was how white and clean the floors and furniture were. Everything was so fancy. The walls were lined with shelves, holding stacks of plastic wrapped sarees and suits. Immediately, people turned their attention toward me and Aunty. One mans seemed to trip over himself, ordering other people around. Suddenly we were being offered a place to sit, on the fancy white couch. I followed Aunty’s lead, and sat down beside her. In front of us was a long elevated platform, with a clean white cushion covering its entire surface. At least three men were on the platform. Two were sitting, and one standing, but all were eagerly awaiting instruction.
A boy carrying a tray with two glasses of water rushed over to me and Aunty, offering us the water. She declined. I was not thirsty, so I politely declined as well. The boy seemed a bit sad, and walked away with the tray. Aunty started communicating with the man that seemed to be in charge, the one standing on the cushioned platform. Suddenly he started pulling sarees from the piles on the shelves, and tossing them in front of the man sitting on the right. The man sitting on the right unwrapped the first saree, set the plastic aside, grabbed the corners and threw the saree down the length of the platform. The man on the other end held the corners and smoothed the saree out. I was amazed. It’s like throwing your blanket, when you make your bed, or otherwise laying down a rug. The saree was long and intricate, and very beautiful. I didn’t have the chance to open my mouth before they threw another one, and I realized how this process worked. They would throw about five sarees at a time, and if I liked any, Aunty would ask them to set them aside. It’s safe to say that I didn’t find a saree that called to me, until about 30-45 minutes into this process.
The first saree I saw, that I liked, was a heavy pink and purple saree. It’s design was breathtaking. Aunty seemed to detour me from that saree, but I was sure it was the most beautiful saree I had ever seen. She had the man set it aside. Aunty asked (finally) if there were any specific colors I liked. “Dark pink looks good on me, and purple as well.” We sifted through a few more sarees. When we finally had a pile of four or five sarees, we got up from the couch and moved to the other side of the store. A small woman took a moment to examine me. The small woman called out to a young boy, who brought a square platform over, for me to stand on. I stepped up, as Aunty sat down on a cushioned bench near by. “Do you want some coffee?” Aunty asked.
“No, I’m just fine, thank you. I had an early dinner, so I’m full.”
Aunty nodded, and the small woman got to work. She wrapped some sort of belt around me, and began wrapping the saree around it.
I tried on every saree from the pile of sarees I liked best. The first was a purple saree, and it looked good… But I didn’t get the feeling that it was a winner. Next I tried on an intricate purple and gold saree… I looked like royalty! I really liked it. Aunty laughed at how excited I was getting. 😀 The next saree was a light teal color, with a jeweled paisley trim. It was lovely, and the icy teal color looked so good on me. I noted that I really liked that saree as well. The last saree was the purple and pink saree. It was heavy, really long, and ultimately beautiful. It sparkled like the night sky! :O I was definitely in love with that saree.
In the end, that saree was too expensive, and according to Aunty was “something a married lady would wear”. Ah well…
But I did choose the next best saree. ♥
When choosing a suit, the process was the same. This time, one man and three ladies helped us. They brought out suit after suit, but none of them seemed to call out to me. Every single piece either had strange color combinations or a color that wouldn’t look good on me. Navy blue and lime green do not look good on my pale-pink complexion. At a certain point, I just started choosing what looked the best out of all the options I had. Aunty and the man started fussing about the suit I chose. I couldn’t understand the words, but according to gestures and context, Aunty wanted to be sure that the particular style of suit could be adjusted and re-sized. Suddenly a man came out of nowhere, with measuring tape, joining in on the bickering.
“He is going to take your measurements now.” Aunty said. I nodded and stood up, as the man with the measuring tape climbed over Aunty to measure me. When he finished, they bickered a bit more, before we got up to pay and leave.
It was an interesting experience, and I can’t wait to show you what I chose! You will have to wait until the wedding! Sorry. 🙂