India Today, Why are you sorry about women wearing a nice Saree?

In September, Tanya Rawal, 31, an adjunct professor for the University of California at Riverside started her #SareeNotSorry campaign to dispel negativity towards people of Bharatiya heritage by focusing on the positive aspects of culture a saree represents. In contrast, in October, IndiaToday came up with a video on the troubles faced by women wearing a saree to work.

It is my opinion that the makers of this video are actually ruing the fact that educated and working women in Bharat still wear sarees, while most working men have given up on Dhotis, the original attire of men in our country.

A little on the background of Sarees & Dhotis – Sarees and Dhotis are the original unstitched garment that women and men wear in our country. Before the advent of the invaders, Indians used to wear unstitched garments to cover themselves. Sarees were usually worn in a way to cover the lower and upper body in just one piece. Women who did physical labour used to wear the saree in the ‘patt-kachha’ (fishtail) style in the lower part of the body, for better mobility. They used the ‘pallu’ part to cover their upper body.

Before the saree became a one-piece ensemble, 3 separate garments were used –the Antriya – the lower garment; the Uttariya – a veil worn over the shoulder or the head; and the Stanapatta – a chestband. Men used to wear their dhoties to cover the lower part of their bodies and used the ‘ang vastra’ to cover their upper body. Later, when the stitched garments made their appearance, women started wearing the ‘saree petticoats’ under their sarees & the blouse to cover their upper torso. Men started wearing pyjamas & kurta, especially in North India. In the South & the Eastern part of Bharat, Dhotis continued to be worn more than stitched garments. There are more than 80 recorded ways to drape a Saree and the style of draping differed from region to region. In some places the 5 ½ yard saree was worn & in some, the 9 yard saree. The modern style of wearing a saree is believed to have originated from Jnanadanandini Devi, the wife of Rabindranath Tagore’s elder brother Satyendranath.

The weaves and designs on the saree also document the artistic work of the people of the region they originate from. The vibrant colours, the borders and the ‘pallu’, lovingly told tales which were cherished by women from generation to generation. When the fleeing Parsis came to Bharat, their women folk adopted the Saree as their garment of choice. In fact the Parsi Gara Sarees which are hand embroidered command lakhs of Rupees per saree. Parsi Gara Embroidery incorporates Persian symbols like the cypress tree, chakla chakli or contradictory birds, the divine fungus tree, Indian concepts of Lotus and Peacock, floral baskets, Chinese court life, beautiful gardens and flowers such as peony, rose, and chrysanthemum.

These motifs give a feel of harmony, richness, grandeur and delicacy. It comes as no surprise then, that these sarees are handed down from one generation to another as heirlooms. The Gujarati wedding Panetar, Bandhani sarees, the Benarasi artwork on pure silk sarees, the Kanjeevaram with its gold jari work, the Pochampalli, the Assamese Makhela Sador and Muga Sarees, represent just some of the different weaves which make the bride feel resplendent on her wedding day. Sarees make all women feel beautiful and gorgeous, irrespective of their shape, size or age.

Now coming back to the video by India Today, I feel that the women in the video are perfect examples about how bad grooming reflects on inter-personal skills too, at work. The women in the video have probably never learnt how to come properly dressed to work. The way the saree has been draped by both women, shows clearly how important it is to pin and tuck in work clothes properly. It goes without saying that irrespective of the attire worn, if the attire is worn badly, it will attract unwanted attention & disturb one’s concentration too. Imagine if one wears an ill-fitting pant or skirt which is either too tight or too long/short. One could either find it difficult to breath, climb stairs or bend (without tearing the seams) or trip over it, depending on which case it is. The trouble faced by women while going to the toilet to relieve oneself, wearing the Western Jumpsuit, has to be faced, to be believed. That apart, responding to complements about looking special/more beautiful in a saree, with tart, rude comments only shows the acidic personality of the woman in the video.

A little politeness & a smile (which costs nothing) brings in more goodwill & friendship, than a sarcastic, acerbic comment. Meditation technique training at the workplace will definitely help such people in becoming calmer and more content. I also recommend that both these women share their experiences about sexual harassment on the Social Media using the #MeToo hashtag. The lecherous man who is looking for some cleavage on the back(?) of one of the women, makes one wonder if he got the job due to nepotism, instead of merit.

Many people who commented on the video felt that it was an assault on the cultural heritage of Bharat, because the saree was targeted. I think it is time that we look at such immature videos with pity, because what these videos do is that they show how much our intelligence has diminished thanks to years of slave (Sepoy) mentality. One Sepoy Mutiny took place in 1857, when even Rani Laxmibai fought against the British wearing her saree. Today, 160 years after that Mutiny, it is time that present day Brown Sepoys revolt against their own slavery of the mind, and embrace their cultural heritage without any shame.