Every time I showed a saree to my grandmother, she would react in a typical way, wring up her face and ask, “What kind of a saree is this?” I would explain the intricacies of the jamawar, jamdani, Bengal cotton, embroidered silk…. she would never appreciate it. A synthetic would be discarded by just one look at it. No!! She wouldn’t be fascinated by these varieties at all.
The one variety that would draw her attention was a kanchipuram pattu pudavai. A saree is not a saree till it was kanchipuram silk with zari. That’s what to her a saree is in the real sense. I wondered if she would ever be satisfied with the sarees available currently, what with all the fancy designs and unique colour combinations.
She opened her cupboard and fondly brought out all her pattu sarees and explained the events for which they were bought; each being a very special and memorable one.
“You know this MS blue with ‘arraku ‘or maroon border saree” she said “was bought for our house grihapravesham”. The blue colour of this saree was popularised by singer MS Subbulakshmi who was considered and still is considered the epitome of grace and beauty in a woman of her age and times. The colour became synonymous with her name. “In those days a South Indian woman’s wardrobe would be incomplete without it” she added. “Nobody produces sarees of these colours nowadays” she said.
She picked up a yellow saree and went on to explain how she obtained it. “Mambazha yellow with green border” she stated stroking the saree affectionately (mango yellow - the colour of the ripened mango fruit). “This saree was bought on the occasion of the upanayanam of your uncle (her first son)” she stated proudly. “Look at the colour and sheen. It is now 30 years old. Tell me! are the sarees of your generation as everlasting as these?” she queried.
I picked up a brown one from her collection and immediately her eyes turned lovingly at it. “This ponvandu colour (colour of the jewel beetle) was bought by your grandfather for Deepavali. You know I never went shopping. I would just name the colour and others would buy it for me. The saree would be just what I had in mind;” she said reminiscing the days when shopping and choosing colours were easy. How come? I wondered? The explanation of the colour seemed to be so precise. May be that’s the speciality of the Kanchipuram silk.
“ This maanthulir saree with rudraksha border is one of my favourite” she went on, picking up a saree in green - an exact shade of the green leaves of the mango tree which has just started sprouting leaves with a touch of pink added to it. No wonder she wore it for all our family gatherings. “Only Kanchipuram sarees can replicate the exact shade” she stressed with a lot of conviction.
“What about this saree pati?” I asked. “Ah! This paasi pachai (moss green) saree was bought on the occasion of the birth of my first grandchild – you! It’s for you now!”She said affectionately, giving it to me.
“But before that pati”, I said “here is a birthday gift from me”. I handed her the saree I had bought for her from RmKV. She opened it and her joy knew no bounds when she found a pattu saree to her liking. “I always wanted this colour” she cried joyfully. “This was not available in my days.” Are kanchi pattus of my days still available ……? She was so delighted to receive the mayil kazhuthu colour saree (a shade of the peacock’s neck) and a colour which is yet to be coined in the English language.
Finally, she was happy with a saree bought for her!