Shopping in the new year
Gudi Padwa, the first day of our lunar calendar is supposed to be a lucky day and it is believed that anything begun on that day will be fruitful and successful. Many people seize the opportunity to start out a business, buy a new home or car , get married or mark the occasion with a bit of gold. For several years I would buy a gold coin but now having no use for gold I thought I’d give this tradition a miss. I also gave the festivities a miss and for the first time in thirty years did not put up a floral garland at the entrance, did not hoist the gudi nor did I even attempt making a fancy meal because there was no one really at home to appreciate it. This set me thinking …… What came first? The festival or the children? I remember celebrating every festival with much gusto when the children were small. Not only did this make each day different but I foolishly though that celebrating festivals would give them a sense of identity and a more than passing acquaintance to the lifestyle of their ancestors. It is to this end that I began recording our culinary traditions especially the food associated with our celebrations. The book is compiled and ready, awaiting publication but, I feel it will never see the light of day. But that’s another story.
Sensing our despondency ,Anna Shetty called us over to share the fest with her family. Suddenly I felt inspired and began cleaning up the house after which both MIL and I dressed up in our finery and trotted off to celebrate with the new grandchild and the family. While the adults downed Cosmopolitans and wolfed down the traditional food (varan bhaat , basundi, puri, watana usual, kanda bhaji) baby slept through it all, oblivious to our merry making.
Baby had it right. We went straight home and had a wonderful siesta. But traditions still die hard and I thought I owed it to all the gods of good luck to buy something so I walked down to the sari shop at Mahalakshmi (Nalli’s) and spent a good hour feasting on the gorgeous weaves that so gracefully drape our bodies. The salesmen were patient, unravelling yards of fabric in silk and cotton, embellished with woven gold or block prints. Hundreds of saris from all over the country in styles that were traditional and modern combining ancient techniques with modern sensibilities unfurled on counters as ladies jostled with each other to find a place on the counter. Indeed it was heartening to see the store crowded and bustling with activity especially since most Indian women have abandoned this sort elegant of garments to wear clothes that are practical and easy to wear .
Seeing all those metres of cloth reminded me of a time when all women wore only saris. I remember my mother actually changing twice in the day, having saris to wear for different occasions : to work in, to travel in, to sleep in and to dress up in, saris of soft cotton mul printed with vegetable dyes, with intricate borders and motifs woven in contrasting coloured thread or finely pulled strands of pure gold . My mother wore cottons in summer and silks when it was cold and I loved watching her rearrange her wardrobe at the beginning of each season. And when the time was done, she would pull out her saris and drape them on the bed to be aired and sunned before being put away in a trunk till it was time to wear them yet again.
I feasted my eyes on the different saris, reacquainted myself with their elegance and timeless grace and as the salesman packed one up for me, I left the shop with a renewed resolve to wear the sari more often this year!