On a trip to Delhi this time, I found myself the proud possessor of a Patiala salwar with a matching dupatta. To be honest, this was not one of the items on my shopping list, but I was carried away by the enthusiasm of my friend and her daughter who were picking up the ensembles like they were hot cakes at a charity bazaar!
A Patiala salwar is a loose cotton salwar with several pleats that make it even roomier, quite ideal actually for the hot days of an Indian summer. I have to get a fitting kurta stitched for it, not too long – above the knee I should think, so until such time it has to remain suspended on a hanger in my cupboard. I am notoriously lazy about visiting the tailor, so I hope I will have discipline enough to execute the task while the thermostat is still hovering around the mid to late thirties, to derive the maximum benefit from the new addition to my wardrobe.
Salwars and churidaars have almost replaced the saree as India’s most often worn outfit, although the saree has no competition in the elegance department from either of them or any other dress form whatsoever. When I browse through old family albums, it is the saree that catches the eye. Indian ladies always wore sarees. There is an abundance of photographs of my mother and several aunts dressed only in sarees – and I would hardly classify the period as ‘olden days’. However, I do have ample recollection of my late grandmother (Dadi) dressed in spotless white kurtas paired with colourful printed satin pyjamas sitting astride her bed or sofa receiving visitors with all the solemnity of a royal highness. When she ventured out, which was rarely, it was a different story altogether. She would attire herself gracefully in light-coloured lace sarees and appear almost unrecognisable to her several grandchildren who would gaze at the transformed being in awe!
Our album has several black and white photographs of my Nani astride a camel on the desert sands of Eygpt in a pale chiffon saree. She looks immensely comfortable in it, and so does the camel! Today’s girls (mea culpa, too) would whip up a desert storm all of their own if it were suggested that they wear the whole six yards on a holiday or a safari!
Few would, however, turn up their noses at the comfortable Patiala though!