“My earliest memory of a saree is seeing my paternal grandmother drape one in a jiffy. It was magical, the length of nine yards worn in less time than I took to put on my frocks. I would pester her to make me wear the saree also. I must have been five years old. We lived in Thirunelveli, in the far south of India.”
“In those days, she wore only Kanjeevarams. Simple at home, more ornate for stepping out. There was no concept of ironing the saree then. She would pleat the saree right through the breadth of the cloth, and then fold it into an eight figure and keep it inside the almirah if it was a special saree, or hang it on the wooden pegs on the wall if it was for daily wear.”
“My mother was not allowed a higher education because the family believed she must marry and settle down. And she did. But she was insistent that all four of her children, my two brothers and my sister and I, studied well. Perhaps because of her own past, she was very clear that her girls would not rely on inherited property or on the men in their lives and learn to be independent women.”
“Between 1957 and 1967, since my father was in a transferable government job, I stayed with my maternal grandmother, initially, and then in the hostel for a stable education. First in Madurai with my Paati who wore only cotton sarees and never a blouse, following the strict tradition for widows then. She was widowed when she was eighteen. Then I moved to a hostel in erstwhile Madras.”
What does the saree mean to you ?
“The saree was a direct connect to my mother. When I was in the hostel, I had kept a saree of hers with me in my room. I would bury my head in it to gain strength just as I would lay my head on her lap amidst the folds of her saree during vacation, the only time I was with her.”
Rajam Anand finished her post graduation and went on to become a professor at college, teaching English. She wore only sarees till she retired from active work. A grandmother herself, she hopes to pass on the legacy of the saree to her grand daughters, by gifting them the sarees that their great grandmother wore.

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