This is the umpteenth time I am wearing it in the last month. Is it too loose? Worse yet, is it going to unravel in the midst of the rituals and give the priests a coronary? A million doubts are running in my mind as I step out of the room. “You’ve tied it really well today!” proclaims the voice of experience. My mother-in-law who’s reticent by nature, issues her stamp of approval. For a few minutes I savour the heady feeling as I look down at the nine yards sari draped over me. I feel I’ve gained entry into the Madisar Mami Hall of Fame.
My father-in-law’s sudden demise a few weeks back in Chennai led to a series of unexpected events. Having grown up in a traditional Hindu family that diligently followed the lunar calendar, the slew of funeral rites wasn’t a complete surprise. But for the first time I was house bound with several females ranging from 84 years to 8 years with my husband being the sole male in the house. And when a couple of sharp tongued women like my sisters-in-law, experts of the madisar sari, were thrown into the mix, it became a testing ground of sorts for me.
“Don’t let go of the leg on the sari …” My husband’s aunt muttered under her breath as she tied the nine-yards sari for me for the first time. It appeared to be a complex procedure of gymnastic steps as I followed her instructions. A tuck here and there, legs akimbo, and twirls every now and then. By the third day, I got the hang of it and was ready to face the music even as the women kept up the drill in other activities. “Don’t walk too fast, take small steps!” everyone chorused as I flitted around in my new avatar. Whenever I slipped up, my husband’s sisters were only too happy to pull me up!
My friends were curious to know how I had pulled this off. For someone who barely knew how to tie a six-yards sari with finesse as a young bride, I had come a looong way. Do I dare mention that the internet can be a marvelous resource for those who have no 84 year old aunts helping you go the whole nine yards?