37/100. This printed old-rose crepe is one of my absolute favourites. But, for the 19 years of the 20 that she has been with me, I have had a sneaking suspicion that she bears me a grudge. Fanciful, you say?

Well, time for the story, then. About 19 years back, I was a trainee sub at a reputed, Kolkata-based media house that brought out a variety of publications – all from the same building. In those less formal and less formalised times, it was quite common for someone who worked in one publication to be called in by the section editor or Chief Photographer of the Group to be photographed for advertorials or feature stories. A large employee base spanning all age groups meant no dearth of ‘models’ – whatever the requirement. The correct way to wear contact lens or the perfect makeup for a particular colouring or what a ‘ jaundiced’ eye looked like, my friends and I had all, individually, ‘featured’ on the pages of this paper or that, that supplement or this.

So, it was quite without question that I got ready for a shoot for an advertorial for some personal care product. All I knew was that the story had something to do with young working women and that I was to carry two sarees that were suitable for office. A sunflower yellow georgette and this particular saree you see were my choices – both among the first sarees I had bought with my own money. Any way, the light that day wasn’t too good, so the yellow saree it was. A quick photo session at a busy Kolkata crossing and it was done and forgotten. Three days later, I was told that we would have to re-shoot and in the pink saree this time. In the middle of another work-day, another session at another crossing happened. While packing up, the photographer just happened to say that though he liked the earlier photos more, he was sure the client would go with the second set as they wanted a pink saree to go with the product packaging. And it was only then that I thought to ask what product it was. And guess what it turned out to be? A herbal fairness cream for a nationally-known, Kolkata-based personal care products company!

Now, no way was I going to feature in a story like this. Which meant we were smack dab in the middle of a messy muddle. I was coaxed, cajoled, appealed to, even subtly told off for being too ‘pious’. But, while I realised the fix the marketing people were in, while I completely understood the do-or-die deadline, this was a non-negotiable no-no. That I felt like an absolute fool was of no earthly use to anyone. But, since we used to ‘model’ for free, there really was no way that my pictures could be used without my consent. So, that was that. I never gathered up the guys to ask what garbed to that roll of film..

Since that day, I have had ample reason to believe that the marketing guys were not the only ones to resent my stand. You see, every single time I have worn this saree after that day, I have had a chaotic, crazy day where everything that could go wrong, did.

So, I decided to post this story here, hoping to make amends. And in the spirit of making up, I also tried to strike an overtly model-like pose. An Old Navy knotted shrug – worn front to back – hopefully added a dash of glamour to this very ‘work wear’ saree. Delicate rose-quartz earrings from Amrapali competed the ‘look’.

And you know what? I think it has worked. Though I felt extremely silly while going about this, I have a feeling I have been forgiven. I had a wonderful, calm day today. No chaos. No craziness. I guess the saree appreciates the effort. And, I think the saree also knows that many more people will be seeing her on this site than they would have on the pages of that magazine almost 20 years ago. We are finally fair and square.

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