46/100. The first ever National Handloom Day it was. Because almost everything in my wardrobe is handloom anyway, it was rather difficult to decide what to wear. But, it was even more difficult to decide my saree for the pact. Really, how does one choose between a heavy green and yellow-ochre Sambalpuri cotton and a wispy, indigo-dyed Bagru print Kota? Or a striking black and white Ikat and a happy, mulberry Mangalgiri?

In the end, I decided to wear a saree that epitomises what I think of as the essence of handlooms – elegant versatility. A rich maroon Maheshwari that can be dressed down for office or dressed up for a wedding was the chosen saree. It was a working day, but the royal origins of the Maheshwari weave begged for a little dressing up. And as I remembered the day I bought this saree as well as the day I first write it, I realised a more dressed-up look was more apt for the story as well.

About 14 years ago, I walked into a wedding draped in this saree I had bought just two months previously from Mrignayani. The stark contrast of the saree to the heavy silks and sequined ‘designer’ sarees all around earned me quite a few compliments. All buoyed up, I walked up to meet the host who immediately started introducing me to the group of very elegant ladies he was with. Each introduction was followed by a compliment on the saree till I found myself at the receiving end of a rather hostile stare from beady eyes and a supercilious nose in a very glamorous and distinguished face. You see, I was face-to-face with the very lady who had tried to sneakily snatch this saree away from under my hand at the store. The very lady who had kept on making snarky comments in a pretty loud voice about ill-bred, disrespectful youngsters even though the shop assistant had already informed her that I had kept the saree aside before she had even come into the store. The very lady who stopped her snide comments only once I declared rather loudly as well that it seemed bad manners were not the exclusive province of the young.
Cut to wedding again – while I was womanfully fighting to keep my polite smile in place, the host introduced her as being from the royal family of Tripura. It was then that my struggling smile turned into a gloating grin.

Call it small-minded of me but I could not and did not suppress that grin of triumph. After all, I had fought a ‘royal’ sense of entitlement and won! And I was actually flaunting the spoils of war in front of her! Plus, she had really been extremely rude.

So, in honour of the origins of the weave, and in a nod to my ‘ competitor’, shall we say, I dressed up the saree with a sheer, golden Chanderi short top from Fab India bought about ten years ago. I wore this with a beautiful pair of pearl and ruby earrings set in gold-brushed silver gifted by one of my lifelines – Sorba. My tarnished, brushed-gold Accessorise bangles completed the look.

Not quite royalty, true. But, a lady-in-waiting, maybe? ?

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