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.
I brought out another saree that is a gift from another perima and this beautiful neckpiece earrings set that K gifted me for Valentine’s day from Madame Butterfly years ago. As I said, jewellery from K is a once in a while event but when he does, he picks the loveliest pieces 🙂 Apparently, K and his friend went out during lunch break and bought something for their partners for Valentine’s day from this shop at Marina Bay Sands. Just thinking of him doing something like that is an incredibly warm feeling. Madame Butterfly used to have a boutique at Changi airport (oh Changi!) as well and I have bought pieces for friends/ cousins when I would visit them and they would love it. Sadly, I haven’t seen this shop since a few years now and cannot seem to find much about them online either. The designs are so oriental and on rich bright glazed colours and they make a delicate statement. The saree itself is one of my firsts, a plain baby pink but with red-silver threadwork flowers on it. I got it when I was in 12th and it feels like a chiffon crepe but this is an overexcited-to-identify-the-material-me taking a guess so I would take my own guess with a pot of salt. I love it, I love how my perimas choose these sarees that one can overlook in a folded state but make for such beautiful drapes. Or maybe they just become yours. The last 8 days have made me look at my wardrobe with renewed vigour. I do sometimes wear a saree and spend some time in it, refold them to make sure they don’t tear along the seams, air them and sometimes just check on them. But this felt different. This reminded me of the abundance I am so lucky and proud of. Every time I took a saree out, it evoked an emotion and a story in me and how joyful is that? Not every object may come with a story, some you make as you go but it is these little stories, associations and emotions that make something inanimate, alive and yours. And the last days have again reinforced that.
Red for Day 6 of Navratri and today I brought out the Chanderi Shibori from @hathkargha that I purchased a few years ago when I was in Singapore along with a terracotta jewellery set that K got for me on a business trip to Kolkata from @biswa_bangla at Kolkata airport. It is really precious to me because it is not very often that K will pick up accessories for his wife without her being there but there have been a few exceptions and that makes these gifts extremely special 🙂 a bit about the saree – 2017 was a year I did a fair bit of online saree shopping for myself and loved ones. I was a PhD student living on campus and everytime I was called to collect a parcel, I would be so excited. The enterprises I shopped from were also very understanding and would hold on to each item I picked and only ship them together when it made most sense. Some (like @hathkargha a) would also get the falls and the edges of the saree done or even some embroidery on the pallu so when it came to me, it would be ready to wear. This shibori is a great summer saree, so light and weightless. But there is a chill in the air and I wore this earlier in the morning so I paired it with a sweater which helped. It is Day 6 already but what an absolute joy it has been so far❤
I am wearing this lovely easy-breezy saree that my perima gifted me. I do have very generous perimas and chittis who have spoilt me silly and I don’t want that to change ever. The transition to being given sarees from salwar materials as cloth gifts happened in college when I started having events to wear them to and I really enjoyed that phase a lot – you know how you wait to be an adult to enjoy certain perks ? This saree had my heart the minute I saw those dainty parrots in green, blue and silver. I decided to pair this blouse just so I could wear this lovely glass jewellery set I got from Murano from our X’mas trip to Italy in 2015. When we were in Venice, K and I visited some glassmaking centres and watched some beautiful glassware being made. Those colours, the craftsmanship blew us away every time the glass was blown! We could not carry back anything heavy and I spotted some glass jewellery in one of the boutiques attached to the glassmaking centre. It was quite pricey and I was not sure if I wanted it so after dilly dallying, we left without buying it. We had walked about a kilometre from the place when I could take it no more and K who very calmly professed he had seen this coming, told me to hurry along and get it before they closed. I ran. I really did. I will never forget that evening as I ran across a couple of small bridges and my absolutely pathetic sense of direction left me in peace for that one moment. When I went back, the owner was almost getting ready to close and he smiled at me and said, “Ah, there you are! I knew you would come back darling.” I could not say a word or smile. I just picked this up, mumbled a thank you and walked back with the nervous energy and excitement that had not left me and K was sitting on the steps across the bridge waiting. It is in these moments I have felt acute elation and I am aware I can never quite put them in words. Will you believe it if I tell you I have never worn this jewellery ever as I kept waiting for an ultra special occasion? But today? After a lot of what we have been through, today is the surest and most special occasion to celebrate, after all.
This saree is given to me from my mother in law for one of the events at my BIL’s wedding. It is sort of in between a yellow- orange and I love it. It is super easy to drape and looks even nicer if I had put in some effort to iron it. We were in Singapore when she got this and so she had gotten the blouse and everything done for me and it fits me to a T ❤ There is a little story behind the accessories too. I am wearing a necklace and huge earrings I got from Jodhpur when a group of my uni friends and I went for a classmate’s wedding there. We did a fair bit of sight seeing and I bought this from a small shop run by an elderly person. It was all of 150 rupees but has stayed with me all these years in perfect condition. I still remember the joy with which I brought home a piece of Rajasthan which has always meant a lot, bringing home a piece from your travels. We also had a lovely day today, as bright and special as the saree and the pairings.
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.
As if there are not enough reminders of how long it has been since my last meal in Mysore home, ma’s puLiyogre gojju/puLikaachal is now teetering between dangerously low and tearful levels. I am very good at making things last until my next trip back home usually but who am I kidding? The pandemic has thrown any semblance of such pride in the air. And am not over reacting. I can learn to make this myself and try to recreate ma’s presence like I do with a lot of my cooking but I refuse to. Not this time. Those dabbas of poDi and uppinkai and thokku and gojjus that I carry from home after my father carefully double and triple packs them and meticulously weighs them so I never have to suffer at the airport are my way of having ma in the kitchen, in those jars with their lids tightly shut only to be embraced every now and then, preciously, deliberately and very very conscientiously. There is a lot of love that goes into them, there is a lot of excitement in making them and a lot of satisfaction in them being being used to make a meal. Objectively speaking, making a great gojju or pickle is not something only mothers can do and yet to me, they are unparalleled. Colour me sentimental and overcome by an extreme longing for home, but what is my food without it?
Instead of making sweet pongal for Sankranthi today, I decided to make Ragi huri hittu unDe/ pori maav unDe or ragi laddoo though we never really called them laddoos growing up. Also, I have a bit of a mental block against laddoos. Making them, I mean. I am more than comfortable with eating one or half a dozen. Therefore, very conveniently I decided to make my entry into the world of laddoo (that I have come to realise is endless) – making with ragi huri hittu/pori maav unDe with a fair bit of confidence but also a bit of nervousness because am still learning to not see every attempt as an achievement because I tend to do that a lot.
Anyway back to these unDes. It was one of my favourite evening snacks and ma would roast ragi and get it ground at the local mill (Gosh, those were the days). The roasting was key – it imparted a beautiful smell and also made it easy for digestion. She’d roast the ground flour again, carefully but generously adding ghee, shaving a ball of jaggery with a knife right over the pan as some powdered bits and little pieces fell into that aromatic bliss while my brother and I waited rather impatiently with a hope that we’d get a bulk of those jaggery pieces to bite into. She’d wrap this all up by adding some warm milk, quickly rolling them within her palm alternating between the ghee in the little cup and the ragi mixture. She’s make them a really good size and yet we wanted more. Always. I never liked the nosy nuts in them much so sometimes she’d roast and grind some nuts into this mixture as well.
Today I did all of what she does with the ragi huri hiTTu I got from home. I also went a bit wild and added some slivered almonds tossed in with the huri hittu when toasting it. It felt wonderful making this but it also made me really emotional to know I’d be eating them without my brother. I’ll get all the jaggery pieces for myself and that is no fun at all. Ah, I guess I’ll send a picture to him and make him jealous. Sisters will be sisters