Friday, March 20, 2015

Shopping for a Saree


The other day, all the ladies in Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma decide to go shopping for a saree. for a saree. Sitting in US, my mind roller-coasted back to India, way back in time when I was little and when I used to accompany my mom for saree-shopping. It was way before the CTC plaza era....way before the now-poplar designers had made their presence felt.

We used to haunt a very sought-after saree shop of those times in the center of a crowded market in Gurgaon. It was a market minus the mushrooming malls of today. Small shops hugged each other in friendly cuddle along with rickshaws, autos, bicycles, pedestrians, cows, dogs, and humans. The name of the shop was Suman Vastralaya. I have to ask my mom if the shop is still there. I have been in US for the past nine years so I have no clue to the shop's existence or otherwise.

The shop boasted of a trendy and exclusive collection that suited the taste of both the conservative and the contemporary shoppers. Aunties would throng the shop along with other aunties and little children. The shopkeeper knew almost everyone. It was an era of familiarity between the shopper and shop-owner. Uncle, I mean the owner, would treat all the little kids and aunties with cold drinks and tea. He would ask about all family-members' well-being. Then he would offer a good discount to his regular customers without asking for it. There was no need to bargain. My mom would just smile and make the payment which he only reluctantly took while saying, I will take it from bhaiya (bhaiya referred to my dad). Mom never believed in deferring payments. She would promptly reply, 'Udhaar pe nai khareedna pasand mujhe bhai-sahab. (I don't like to buy on credit, brother...). We would return home to show all our purchases to my grandmother who herself was a fashion diva. There was an understanding between the shopkeeper uncle and us (I guess it went with all his customers) that if for some reason we wanted to return the items we had bought, he would take them back. There was no window of return date. There was no deadline hanging around our neck.

Shopping culture has changed with buyers moving to bigger stores and brands. There is a shift from small shops to big showrooms, from bazaars to malls. The shift has brought with a distance, a dissociation between the buyer and the owner. Transactions now happen in a matter-of-fact dry manner, with little or no guarantee from the latter. No doubt there is a plethora of options available as far as fashion, style or fabric is concerned. But that agreeableness to shop, that friendliness of markets - that sadly has been lost.

I never shopped for Indian clothes in US. NJ has a vast array of Indian shops on Oak Tree in Edison. But a look at the dummies wearing ethnic wear reveal unattractive styles. I do not know how well-priced they are. My first year in US, I once went to a saree-shop to ask how much they would charge for stitching a blouse. As I waited for my turn, I saw another lady looking at some sarees which were modestly priced for $10 each. While the lady went gaga over the price and quickly chose one, I recoiled at the plainness, and the absence of aesthetic appeal in them. They were just pure nylon or other synthetic stuff with such dull colors that I felt stifled at the very thought of looking at them. But then, everyone has his/her own taste and requirement. Sometimes, a plain fabric can be worked upon to create a masterpiece. My granny would do that often, with her embroidery skills.

These days, to help those who do not have the skill and patience to tie a saree elegantly, designers have come up with pre-stitched sarees. That seems like a breeze. May be one day I will buy one for myself as I am hopeless when it comes to tying a saree properly.

Half-saree is another term added to my dictionary of sarees. It is not half as the name says. It is just that the color of the pleats is in contrast to the rest of the saree. They look stunning and make bold statements.

And saree shopping online! Have you done that? I am still not confident about this. Maybe one day I will give it a try. After all, websites like and offer such desirable and enticing catalogs that it is hard to turn a blind eye.

So, when was the last time you shopped for a saree? Oh wait, there is a new ad on TV. Nalli sarees. Hmm....just in time for Ugadi....Drench yourself in silky splendor as the new year ushers in, my friends!

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  1. Such a lovely post! I visted Gurgaon only once in 90s. my friends in delhi used to tell me that it was a village and i believed them.

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