So here’s the story about the sari aficionado in my life-my 80+ ma-in-law, Padma Nayar or ‘Pat’ as her neighbors address her.
She moved to London from E.Africa in the mid-70’s and soon got a job as a civil servant. Faced with a dilemma of what to wear to work in swinging seventies London, she asked a Bengali friend who lived down the road and worked in a small office. The friend replied ‘Why a sari of course’. Relieved for that was all she ever wore Amma headed to work in one her gorgeous silks, all she ever wore until she retired from the department in her 60’s. Come rain or shine ( in London it rains an awful lot) it was a sari for Amma. Sometimes coupled with a raincoat and in the winters she kept warm with a pair of long johns or two under her pavada (petticoat) and a cardigan and coat over her sari blouse.
Twenty years on the sari-wearing habit is alive and well though as soon as I entered her household I dragged her to the shops to buy some trousers and tops. Sari wearing in London’s cold and damp winters according me just doesn’t work for as Amma has aged; her resistance to the damp cold has weakened.
However, when the dark winter days have departed and London gets some summer sun. Amma brings out her collection of mama’s saris though sadly the silks have all been packed away, and she’s moved on to the wash n wear kind.
And when it’s time for her to get on a plane for her arduous nine-hour journey to Delhi to visit family, it’s always a sari.
For she knows that her little brother would not be happy to see Enda Akka ( big sister in Tamil) wear anything else even after having lived for more than forty years in the UK.