Six yards of cloth swirl around my legs.

Six yards of cloth that are so much more than just woven fibres spun by silkworms in cocoons in the tropical heat of this country that calls this dress its own.

Six yards of tradition, perhaps? Or is it six yards of grace and elegance, with a hint of seductive power embroidered into its many folds?


I look down at the Tussar silk, not quite blue, not quite green, the finest embroidery etched into every square centimetre of this coveted cloth. As I inhale, I can almost smell the factories in Bhagalpur from where this silk has made its way to this air-conditioned sari shop in Bangalore.

WhatsApp Image 2019-06-20 at 9.56.33 AM (2)Draping this silky cloth is an art form in and of itself. First, I loosely coil the cloth on the floor around my legs. I will need to wrap, tuck, and pin this material to my body before I can call myself dressed. I start at my right hip with a tuck; while the sari usually extends down to the floor, this first tuck can be higher because this stretch of cloth will be covered by another layer. Assuming the cloth is tightly tucked into the petticoat, the sari will hug my frame. If not, it will sag in highly uncomplimentary places. I take the cloth around my body, making sure the edge of the lower border brushes against the ground. When it reaches the front, I have made one complete circle.

Now comes the tricky part. I swirl the sari out around me like a fisherman casts his net. The material circles loosely and falls onto the floor so that a stretch of cloth lies around me and the rest is still securely in my hand. This remaining portion I place over my shoulder and pull until the end hangs down to the back of my knees. This is the pallu, the embroidered silk that covers the chest and shoulders and adds a streamlined touch to the sari. Around my feet lies the material that will get pleated and tucked into the waistline. This is the most difficult step for me. If you do not securely hold the pleats while creating them, you will lose the entire fan.

In and out, in and out, my fingers weave an intricate silken fan out of a yard of cloth. Ten pleats, twelve, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. The entire bundle is thick, and I slip a pin through the pleats for good measure. Losing them now would be devastating. Then I tuck them into the lining of the petticoat and glance into the mirror to see whether the bottom hem of the sari is uniform and touches the ground at all places.

The last part is the arranging of the pallu. I drape the entire pallu over my shoulder and begin folding until the edge of the border is a little past the edge of my shoulder. Then I carefully pin the pleats to my blouse and pull the material so that it lies flat against me.

Every step of draping the sari is a small act of love.


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