And that purple of Day 9 of Navratri is upon us in a flash. I say flash but I have lived these moments to the best I could and even if it meant spending a grand time on Instagram, it has been one with intent and mindfulness. It was not only a visual treat of sarees and colours that played as a film on my feed but a sense of community and collective spirit of coming together to celebrate. And it was a celebration at different levels and on different fronts for many of us. And #norulesnavratri made all the sense in the world. There was a purpose as I woke up, a colour to add to my day, a few moments of shringaar, an anticipation of words and a contentment at the end of it. There was a desire to relive memories, a drive to make more memories and somewhere amidst all this, weave stories we will live to tell another day. And somewhere along, for some of us, this was a creative outlet to express yourself in ways you felt like and send out your energy to the world and I, again, saw the power of a hashtag. There was inspiration in your wardrobe and on the internet and, corners felt like home – familiar and joyful. It was an opportunity to share a good word and trust me, I saw a lot of it just when we needed a lot of it. It truly did feel like #selfcarenavratri . And then, I had my personal highs of meeting and talking to people I have long admired, visit their homes from the convenience of my chair and also build relationships where I have sat in their presence and felt thankful. I am mindful this may have been a difficult period for some of us and I hope the positivity of celebrations touches us all. Constraints bring out a lot of creativity. But it is the community that has baffled me and left me with a hope and optimism that even amidst all the anxieties, there is someone out there who can be there for you, just a click away. And even though it may seem too simple to grasp and live on, let us not forget how these last #9daysofnavratri have made us feel and believe.
There is something about fall that makes me do these captures almost every year now. As someone with intense olfaction and an undiagnosed synaesthesia, my senses are heightened when I see the leaves that seem to spread a golden carpet in our garden everywhere. The aromatic apparitions are coupled by strong emotions of course but that has not been seasonal. I try to keep track of what triggers what and where the cycle begins (?) but it is a complex web. Some of these are pure associations of a yesterday and I can discern those in a sniff. Like the pumpkin body butter that takes me to the streets of Auckland, the hand cream that takes me on a trip to Shropshire and a particularly green road that housed a teeny Dominos. There was a time I would buy a small perfume for every trip I made but eventually stopped. I realised the place brings with it, its own sensorial mirage and it is more lasting than anything money can buy. But this Kama Ayurveda oil surprised me – it takes me to the wire basket that my grandfather would carry, with several many paraphernalia all neatly arranged. He was an Ayurvedic doctor but the bag smelt of a mix of incense, old papers, freshly laundered garment and perhaps an uncture? But when I think of the bag, this is the smell I smell. And it oddly is also the smell I associate when I think of an afternoon when we made kohl at home with hibiscus. It smelt nothing of bringadi but that is also perhaps why it is a mirage. They bring me an overwhelming sense of comfort, despite what may seem like a sensorial overload. Something I have been going back to and will write about is also this beautiful book by Charlie Mackesy that I first saw on @namrathakumar29 feed. It is filled with the comfort and warmth that I can only describe through some of the above smells. I rarely write about this because it is hard to describe abstraction. So I dig into my Lara bar (stories I will tell you another time!) and watch the fleeting shower of leaves from my window.
Come August and September, there is a chain of festivals that get triggered and that sets off a series of memories that transport me to a different world and era indeed.
I really really miss the smell of new clothes on festivals, dabbing some turmeric to something new before wearing it while your parents check and double (and triple) check on whether you have done it or not, what a celebration new clothes were because they signified a special day or event. Oh that hustle in a market that smelt of fresh jasmine and marigolds and kanakambri, camphor, agarbattis and banana leaves that heralded a festival! Or when it inevitably rained on your day out but nothing mattered, not even the fact that you parked roads and roads away from the shopping street because you could look at all the new dresses on display, the happy smiles on people out for shopping, wondering what their shopping bags contained. And finally that moment when you found something you liked and your parents remarked it looks good on you, the pride with which you watch your parents pay for it and clutch it tight all the way home only to do a dress rehearsal again. I do feel happy when I buy something new, but these shopping trips that happened before festivals and birthdays, occasionally will always remind me of gentler lighter times, of unbearable happiness and rich pride. So when I do wear something ethnic especially on a festive day, it takes me to those times even if it is for a brief moment and I feel ridiculously happy to have those memories to relive until we recreate them again, someday soon.
A couple more close ups from last week because I finally wore this Lakshmi Kemp set from @aarvee.chennai that I bought three years ago. I have missed so many weddings, family events and just being with loved ones and the bustle of dressing up for an event, helping my ma and chitthis and perimas with their saree pleats, changing the accessories half a dozen times, kindly rejecting a suggestion, carefully drinking a hot coffee, sitting down with care for breakfast so the sarees pleats don’t get creased even before the event and photos, opening up the bindi store, convincing someone they look really good in something new, getting heady amidst half a dozen perfumes that circulate in the room amidst the flowers, waiting for everyone to be done/others waiting for you to be done and the million dollar feeling of walking into the venue and endless chatter. I miss all these little moments so much. Somedays I cannot wait to reach a stage when I can take a flight and go do all this and come back.
Hope is the hat rack I hang my dreams upon, indeed.
Somewhere this weekend, I spent some time in this saree that I want write about here (I have to give full credit to K’s endurance and creativity in capturing some really lovely moments).
You see, it was the first saree that ma and I purchased for me. Up until then, I was always whisking ma’s sarees for weddings, college events, everything. I used to stitch a blouse for myself because the kinds I would wear were never ma’s style but the sarees were all hers. When one of my favourite cousin’s wedding was fixed, I decided to buy a saree for the muhurtam and ma and I found this in the first shop we went to. I got an extremely elaborate blouse stictched for this with beads and ties and everything and I may have been as excited as the bride herself for this wedding day. I have a thing for white and cream sarees that have silver and gold in them. They are so regal and I love how they look on everyone I have seen them on. I have such grand memories of the few of us singing “Sita kalyanam” and “Malai maathinal” and “Unjal aaDinaal” in all our jasmine, gold and saree clad glory amidst that sound that new sarees make if you listen. I remember so many moments from that wedding in such vividity and the saree is always such a big part of it. I even wore this as part of one of the smaller events in my wedding. I know not much about weaves and the saree continues to be a small part of my life even if it means just wearing it for myself on a random day for a few hours. It is perhaps the way it makes me feel, or takes me back or maybe just part of who I am. It is not one to dissect for today but I love this love and someday maybe I will have a slightly more academic interest in it or maybe not. But I know that when I drape a saree and sip a coffee, I will be comforted in a strange way that only makes sense to me.