Trends come and trends go, but if there's a timeless failsafe for Bengali women, something they turn to when they feel like going that extra mile, it's the sari. The feminine, flowing garment not only flatters the spectrum of Bengali body types, but its elegance transcends every age.
With urban lifestyles evolving, the sari as an everyday garment is becoming a rarer phenomenon, as the common conception is that it's not a practical garment for working women. We at Weekend decided to talk to four superwomen, successful in their own fields, about their special relationships with their saris.
Sriya Sharbojoya, Station In Charge (Business, Marketing & Program) Radio Shadhin 92.4 FM
“I think when I was two or three years old my mother dressed me up in a sari for Eid. That would most definitely be my first time. But as an adult I remember when I got done with my O level exams my maa took me to New market to buy me my own sari.
I unfortunately only end up wearing saris occasionally. So a few times a month for work or special occasions. But I really do want to start wearing saris more often.
I feel confident, beautiful, and sure in a sari. I think it makes me feel my best and gives me a special feeling. A sari is a 12 arm length of magical cloth which has the ability to make one feel sexy, strong, beautiful, nurturing and confident all at the same time.”
Sadaf Saaz, poet, activist, Director and Producer, Dhaka lit fest
“The first time I put on a sari, I think I was six, for a fancy dress competition of a street carnival in a small village about 10 miles from Cardiff in Wales - I won the first prize for being an Indian Princess! I also loved wearing saris to dance to Rabindra Sangeet in cultural shows.
A dear family friend, Qamar Aunty, gave me a gorgeous bright burnt orange South Indian silk, with a black paar and a hint of zari. It was the first sari I ever owned.
The sari makes me feel elegant, in control, sophisticated, comfortable, strong, confident, feminine, grown-up, in touch with myself. I wear them often, at least 2-3 times a week.
My favourite saris are Bangladeshi - cottons, that are soft and fall beautifully, not stiff with starch, and silks with nakshi kantha weaves. I like wearing them very naturally, as if they are part of me – without pins or fuss, with nicely tailored trendy blouses, and funky ear-rings.
Sangeeta Khan, entrepreneur (Time Out, Divine Spa, and more)
“As far as I remember I was in class eight or nine when I first put on a sari. It was my mother's sari, and I think it was a chiffon, which I ended up owning. It became my favourite thing to wear, and that's why I wear it every chance I get.
Whenever I put one on, I feel confident and comfortable and I love myself. I love saris with a cotton base, especially Jamdanis. I'm very particular about how I wear it – from my bag and shoes to jewellery and teep, everything has to co-ordinate. And a flower in my hair is an absolute must.”
Zimana Ahmed, Program Manager at EMK Center
“I don’t even remember the first time I put on a sari. I was probably less than a year old. The first one I owned was a red Jamdani. Abbu bought that for me when I was a year old. My mom’s wedding photos inspired me to wear a red sari and I used think I looked like my Ammu in that garment.
The sari is like a regular dress for me. I wear it to work, hangout with friends or shopping outings.I wear it 3-4 times a week. I think this is the most comfortable dress for our climate. Wearing a sari always makes me feel very “me”. How I look in them is a secondary consideration.
I think these days people think we need to wear saris only on special occasions. When you put one on, you're bound to be asked if there's an occasion, whether you're off to a date, etc. I think we need to break these stereotypes and accept the sari as a regular dress like good old days.
I prefer cotton saris, and the occasional silks. I mostly wear them in one of two styles. My everday look is the folksy Bengali drape, which I adopted from my mentor Sadia Apu. For occasions, I drape them so that the achol falls down the back.”