Mama's Saris Author's Note

When I was a child and went to my friends' houses for playtime, we used to pull out their mothers' fancy clothes and play "Dress Up." I remember all of us trying on hats and shawls and scarves and gloves, falling over in leather pumps and getting tangled in colorful costume jewelry, putting on red lipstick (that always landed on our chins) and pink blush (that found its way to our noses).

When I got home, though, it was my mother's saris - her dress up clothes - which captivated me. They were every color you can imagine - apricot, carnation pink, olive green, melon, sepia - and had names like Baluchari (saris woven with animals and kings and scenes from Indian myths), Banarasi (timeless silks from the northern city of Varanasi), Kalamkari (hand painted saris), Kantha (quilted saris) and Zardosi (saris embroidered in real gold). She wore them only for special occasions, unlike her mother or mother-in-law for whom the sari was an everyday garment. So on birthdays, Diwali (Hindu New Year), family weddings and receptions, and trips to the temple, she would take out the bag, her bindis and her bangles, and wrap herself in yards of material. I would just watch - as six yards was too much for me to handle - and instead would steal her dupattas, beautiful decorative scarves that she mixed and matched with various Indian outfits, and drape them as I thought a sari would be. This compromise sufficed until I was tall enough to wear her saris and, finally, old enough to buy my own.

I wrote Mama's Saris after realizing that my own fascination with my mother's fancy clothes was not unique. It seemed like all my female friends, regardless of ethnicity or age, remember, at one point, being captivated by their mother's grown-up clothes. Everyone noted that they thought their mothers were just beautiful and, by dressing up like them (and emulating everything else that they did), they would be just as beautiful too.