August 20, 2011

Adventures in Sari Wearing

I wore a sari two times this week. TWO TIMES.

My first experience in wearing a sari was on Monday for India’s Independence Day.  My fabulous friend Gnanamani helped me tie the sari at about 7am that morning. She is the absolute sweetest! I had to walk about 20 minutes (IN A SARI) to get to the Village and school where my roommate, B, works. JJ and I were attending her Independence Day ceremony and then heading to Family Life Institute for MCC’s Independence Day celebration. It’s hard to walk in a sari. You can’t exactly stride in a sari.

Me and B, my roommate, at the FLI Independence Day Celebration!
Meg, Katie, and B at the Independence Day Celebration at FLI.
Formal wear that ALLOWS for your stomach to be exposed...
I just have a hard time wrapping my brain around sometimes. But that is certainly the case here!
Once we traveled to both Independence day celebrations, B and I just took a breather under the water tower on campus. It’s kind of a hangout place throughout the week, but since it was Independence Day it was deserted. We sat for a bit…then we decided to have a photo-shoot because we were both rocking out saris!
The road behind me is the path I walk down to class 3 days a week.  It's a jungle. A JUNGLE.
No big. Just walking along in my sari. Rocking pink like Elle Woods.
My second experience in wearing a sari was on Wednesday for my field placement’s 25th Anniversary Celebration. I wore my white and grey sari that has green and blue flowers throughout it. My friend, Gnanamani, helped me tie it this morning before breakfast – she is the best! In order to travel to my field placement, I must first cross the street. Believe me…this is a huge feat for ANY street in Chennai. Then I catch a train and ride that for about 45 minutes. On my train ride, I sat across from two women who were marveling at the fact that I was a blonde girl wearing a sari. The one directly across from me pulled out her jasmine flowers and began to tie them together, so that she could string them in her hair. It is very common for women to wear jasmine flowers in their hair – they give off a very sweet smelling perfume. When she finished a strand, she cut it and handed it to me. She wanted me to wear jasmine in my hair! She had tied the jasmine for me! I didn’t have a pin for it, so she took the pin from her hair and attached the jasmine to the back of my blonde head. I told her Thank You and before she left the train I made sure to catch her name, which I think was Moma. I think.

Snapped at the end of my long day. 
I thought that blonde girls get stared at a lot in India and they do, BUT that’s nothing compared to a blonde girl in a SARI. Walking the 10 minutes to my field placement was a funny adventure. As soon as I step off the train, I have to walk up some stairs and then down a ramp. Waiting at the bottom of the ramp, early in the morning, is a gaggle of auto drivers. They more or less cat-called as I walked by – “Auto, ma’am!? Looking very nice in Indian culturals, ma’am!” or “Sari, ma’am!?” I think they got a real hoot out of seeing me. I just laughed at them and kept walking.

While at my field placement, the interns were running around and hanging banners or pinning curtains, essentially climbing onto tables in bare feet and saris. I was one of them. Meanwhile, there were interns in Salwaars, which include pants and kurta with a scarf, who were on the ground handing us pins or fabric. For I second, I wondered whatwhatwhat is wrong with this picture? I am in a sari on a table and you are in pants on the floor. Why? Then I realized it’s really probably no big deal. Women in India live their whole lives in saris – they cook, clean, gather firewood, carry firewood on their head, sell food, walk long distances, manage cattle or chickens, etc, etc, etc. So, standing on a table in a sari is just another thing you can do in a sari! No big!

After my long day taking “snaps” of the celebration and staying late to help make a powerpoint, I caught a train home. There were no open seats when I got on the train so I just stood. All the while, I could feel the women (I was in the Ladies car) giving me an extra glance over. I’m pretty sure one girl snapped a picture of me on her phone. Pretty sure. One woman, in particular, had her eyes on me every time I looked her way. Every time. Eventually, some seats cleared up and I ended up sitting across from this woman who had been eyeing me the whole time. We began to have a little conversation.

She told me I looked nice in my sari and that it was tied nicely. (Thank you, Gnanamani!!) She said that I had done everything perfect like an Indian, except that I was missing a bindi for my forehead. Oh, and I just needed help knowing how to sit in my sari, because my pleats were all over the place, apparently! She mentioned how she had just watched and watched and watched me the whole train ride. I knew it! I asked for her name (in Tamil) and he eyes grew wide with surprise. We had been chatting in English and she was completely taken aback at this Tamil phrase that I whipped out. She mentioned that she was so impressed that I was a foreigner wearing a sari, because she can't get her daughters to wear one. 

I really didn’t mind wearing a sari. It's kind of just like wearing a fancy dress. I should start learning to tie it for myself and see how that goes! I doubt that I’ll be wearing these lovelies when I go back to the US. But I did find an awesome site that suggests a ton of ways to recycle a sari. I think they would make lovely window treatments, especially the white and grey one. Thoughts?

And because we all know how silly I really am…here are some goofy pictures of me in a sari. You’re welcome.

 And I can't forget the MOST EPIC picture of me in a sari to date: 

I am jumping for joy because I am about to go take off that sari and put on a tie-dye t-shirt! For real, for real. 

Love, K


  1. Looks amazing esp. the 5/8 picture.

    The 6th picture in which you are trying to mask face looks like middle east! Its not the trend with sari. India is not middle east. Rather you should try something called Semi-Goonghat type veil.

    (Just saying because some people may find that strange. Lol ;) )