She looked longingly at my cupboard and said, “Can you lend me a salwar kameez which you don’t wear often?” I had never ever seen my mother in a salwar kameez as far as I could remember. I was so excited with this request coming from her at the age of 66, that I pulled out three of my brightest sets and gave them to her. “I hope no one will laugh at me,” she said. “Of course not! Go ahead and wear them!” I encouraged her.
My mother had recently undergone a bilateral knee replacement surgery. And a week later she was home and had been advised to walk around slowly daily. She was still not confident about walking without support, and was even more worried that she might trip over the pleats of her saree. And that fear had led her to this historic decision. Once she wore the salwar kameez she was so thrilled that she wanted me to click pictures! She is no longer around but I remember that morning with much fondness.
It led me to think how women are often wordlessly knotted in the pleats of their sarees. It is expected in several conservative homes that women will wear only sarees. Sometimes the pallu over the head is mandatory. They even have to sleep in sarees. Women might have become accustomed to such societal practices, but I doubt if it is comfortable. They don’t seem to have a choice.
My mother in law is 90 and for most part, is confined to her bed. But all her distress and discomfort will be endured in all seasons because the saree is the only garment which she can acceptably be clothed in. Whenever I see her, I feel lucky for the choices I have.
The saree is a very beautiful garment. But only when you are free to decide when and what to wear. In some parts of this country the saree turns into a silent fetter, and then we need to voice our choice.