Saree soiree


Buy and fly or pause and pose? Sunipa Herbert does some wedding shopping with her daughters

An Indian wedding… aah… so ethereal! A grandiose production with much fanfare where euphoric relatives indulge with action-packed breath. A stage where ecstatic kinsmen, having flown from faraway lands, mingle with walking-stick-toting elders and jubilant parents of the bride and groom. The clinking of bangles and gleeful laughter of young maidens and friends herald the momentous days to follow. An Indian wedding conjures images of promise, hope and a fairytale future with chirping birds atop a prismatic rainbow.

The path leading up to that tranquility is, however, fraught with obstacles. Anyone who has ever been part of an Indian wedding can vouch for that. The experience of saree shopping for the special day is stressful. Yes, I said it—have I let my sisterhood down? I concede that shopping is stressful but shopping for sarees with your daughters in tow is a minefield!

10am and here we are at the biggest Mall in Gurgaon, India. Three independent fashionistas from the free world ready for a mission, a mission to buy and fly. Who could ever impede us? Who could stop the determined trio from spending dollars? Umm, that is when the cracks start to appear.

Fact—every girl needs a man standing by to convert Indian Rupees to Australian Dollars to lock in the sale. “Mum how much would that be in dollars”? “How would I know off the top of my head darling? Isn’t that why you have your phones and calculators,” I responded. “Shall we multiply or divide the totals”? “Good Lord, is this why we sent them to private schools,” I mutter under my breath.

Having got over the currency puzzle, we are now on to the next challenge of choosing the saree. The Aussie-bred hearts melt at the sight of a mountain of unravelled sarees.

Don’t ask them to open them all mum as it is inhumane. They will have to fold them again,” pipes in the youngest offspring. “How can you ask HIM to wear the saree and display it,” asks the other. There is something very professional about a male salesperson draping a saree and posing like an A-list model. Our riotous imagination makes us look past the hairy arms and unplucked eyebrows and had us concentrate on the fabric instead. A quick lesson on guiltless shopping and respect for every job no matter how big or small seems to settle both their conscience. I must have done a wholesome job on the conscience part as the “wo dikhaoji” (show me that) were coming thick and fast by the siblings only stopping for translation if asked a question in Hindi. We were all on a roll here.

Did I say buy and fly? Oh dear, it was 2pm. Quick calls to waiting drivers, hungry husband and others had us buy some more time and had us concentrating on the job on hand. However, we were ravenous. I have heard of the business skills of the Indian dubbawallah but I have to confess the marketing skills of the Indian saree sellers are a force to reckon with. The perceptive saree attendants hearing the rumblings of our tummies offered to shout us lunch. Here is food for thought for the retail chains in Aussieland. Ever thought of buying your dedicated and loyal customers lunch?

Fact—time flies faster when a woman goes shopping. There was so much shopping to do and so little time. A reminder by the perceptive saree attendant that the shop shuts at 9pm was oxygen to the dying flame of our shopping spirit. Fed, watered and a rekindled spirit had us pointing and re-pointing to sarees again. I was hoping the offspring would not talk about worker’s rights and long hours of work. They didn’t. Was good ole India rubbing off on them? This feeling of belonging is next to none. We belonged here, we were born to shop and we felt wanted.

Shopping in India requires determination, fortitude and a strong will. My daughters displayed all those traits and had learnt well from the Master… er… Mother. I love how the apple does not fall far from the tree. Note to self, try online shopping next time.

PS. The shopping trio looked gorgeous in their sarees at the wedding and the FB posts prove it.

Photo above used for representational purposes only.


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