Friday, 20 August 2010

Shopping for that Saree.

My experimental shopping on the internet is coming to its end, now that I appreciate what money I do have, I do not wish to waste it on something that looks heaven on earth on a supper skinny Asian beauty on the photograph but when it turns up on my door its nothing like the picture. Details missing, the blouse a totally different design and colour, the whole thing being poorly put together and badly stitched. I can’t be too angry, I brought the easy way, plus it’s always in the back of my mind. How old was the person that made this, how much did they get paid and what conditions do they have to live and work in? But then, if business were not put their way, what on earth would they be doing instead. School of course, or adult learning some hippy tells me, yes, that’s good, but who pays for it?

Its getting a high profile debate child workers, like with any argument there are two sides, and with this issue I think the world is sat on the fence. I do my bit; I have plans to raise some money for Pratham Books in November, if all goes well possibly two thousand pounds. A lot of money for me but for the Charity, nothing that won’t fix anything over night. Every little helps I guess. It may make me feel better about ordering off the Internet, but for how long?
Recent excursions to London around the Wembley area are becoming more frequent and I can often be found with my nose pressed up against the window dribbling with the shear beauty of some of the shops. The amount of choice in some of these shops is overwhelming. Suddenly what you have spent the best part of 10 years of looking at on the internet wishing you could try on is in front of you and you are forced to make a choice, what one do you buy!!

I went to London with the rose tinted specks on. I had a whole day planned out to visit Ealing road spend the day walking down it browsing through the shops wondering aimlessly around, pop in and see that temple, have lunch in one of the many vegetarian restaurants there and come home with something amazing from one of the many saree shops. As a precaution I left with cash. If I took a card, it could have been dangerous

Sadly my day went nothing like that.

There is a different shopping culture to be found here that I have not found anywhere else. When I shop I like to be left alone, the friendly question “do you need any help” from customer services is obituary for today’s customer care policies, but is always dismissed as I am more than capable of seeing for my self what are socks and what are corn flakes. I do tend to avoid the smaller shops, they are for me, very intimidating, before you go in you already know that you are the only customer in at that time. And the question will be defiantly asked, with maybe, “are you looking for anything in particular?” then if your admiring anything, “That colour looks fantastic on you” when you know dam well it doesn’t, Its in the sale rack because its is gaudy and disgusting and I’m only picking it up to see who had the guts to put their name on it! Shops like Ryman stationeries I used to avoid also, to be greeted with a shopping basket shoved in your arms put me off instantly

With the larger shops on Ealing road I saw that you did need assistance. The sarees were behind counters or stacked in high selves in a rainbow of colour. The Smaller shops they were displayed on hangers and accessible, but then I had my small shop dilemma. When you shop for a saree, you can not go in and hope you find something, you are asked what special occasion is it for, “have you been invited to a wedding” No in-fact I just want to buy another one to wear behind closed doors because I love them.

“What colour?” I don’t know, there’s so many here, I was hoping to find one that worked for me.
At this time the mood changed and I’m sure I was tagged as a time waster, being alone, white and not too sure what I wanted and for no particular reason I am not surprised. In one particular large shop I was overwhelmed by choice, all I knew is that I wanted a silk Saree, with out too much bling and traditional. Before I knew it I had twenty around me and none that I really really wanted. I thought silk being opaque would be the exact thing I needed to keep my previously mentioned not so best friend (gut) covered .As I stood there looking in the mirror with a expensive saree haphazardly draped around me it didn’t look so good. Thick and bold, and too much of one colour. I tried all sorts of colours, sadly orange is out as well as pink, white as well, I was left with some greens and blues and learnt that this particular shop needed Bling on every inch of every sari for them to be able to stock it. Being fair skinned with a big blotchy red face has limited me to dark colours but the shop assistant who insisted on helping me did not really help at all. They were rude, blunt and were more occupied watching the real customers who were there for their weddings and parties and offering them drinks. I was most upset. Was I a timewaster? Yes because I did not buy anything from this shop. But it could have been very different if they hadn’t of been so rude and maybe a bit more helpful.

This incident made me want to cry, why? What happened in there, what did I do wrong to warrant so much hostility? I look for the obvious reason. I am white, and should not be in a Saree. Regardless of how much I love them or how much money I was willing to pay to own another.

I did not find the Temple, I was later to find out that it was still being built at this time

One good thing, the food was fantastic

The second trip I came armed with my Boyfriend and the same particular big shop I had the same sort of reception in there, still too much bing, too much choice and not a lot of help. I sort shelter in a smaller shop after forcing my self to go in, I was going to buy something. Initially I felt like the proprietor had pigeon holed me as a time waster, she scoffed at my budget showed me where the sale rack was! Tears brimmed in my eyes; this clearly was not to be. She showed me a bright aqua saree really not my thing. Was she was being very blunt, rude and obnoxious? She asked me if I liked it
“No. I don’t”

And I continued to look for my self. After I found the Organza saree, she warmed up to me maybe because she could smell a sale, or maybe because she could see that I did have some taste. (I like to think the latter) I guess it is odd for any retailer to have someone like me through the door. Someone who doesn’t know what they want for no particular reason, just want to buy one to add to a growing collection and at the same time look great on. Sarees are maybe not really worn every day or for the sake of it any more, always for an occasion and very special occasions, or never.

After a shaky first impression my eyes opened up to the rest of the shop out side of the sale rail. This was a very excusive shop. Where you come to have a saree made for you not just to buy one. There were exclusive designs fit for a Bollywood première, or any première for that matter, Indo-western dresses and designs in the making for the lucky Sri-Lankan bride to be. She showed me a folder of all her work, all of it beautiful. If I was, or what I should be saying, when I get married, this will be my first stop for my wedding dress. I let her talk about how to wear a saree where to pin it, sadly I did not learn anything new but let her continue all the same before purchasing the Black and mustard yellow Organza beauty. Plain, simple, no bling, comfortable for everyday wear and smart enough for a formal do all at the same time.

I am to return to Wembley this weekend this time for a purchase that is necessary, I need a Lengha Choli as I have been invited to a dance to celebrate Nivratri in October. I’m not as keen on lenghas as I am sarees but now I have a purpose rather than a for sake of it purchase. I hope not be looked upon as a time waster. However, I will be still at a loss on what colour, style, work and the rest.

Boyfriend is excited because he gets to go back and have some more fantastic food and buy a tawa pan and look in the food shops that stock items that can not be found local to home. He is a very good cook. I’m sure he will use it often.

My outings in a saree… Lack of

As already discussed in Introduction, I have only worn my sarees in public on only a handful of occasions. Tonight, is going to be another occasion, but sadly I am not leaving the house. My loving boyfriends parents happen to be coming to my home tonight for dinner, which happens to be a curry. Not my doing the Boyfriend is cooking. He has suggested that I wear my recent Organza purchase. Just the thought of it has put a little grimace on my already wrinkled face. My boyfriend’s parents are amassing. They are the sort of parents that only exist in happy house hold text books, they are the parents I never had, they are still together for a start, they love and care openly and not just when something bad happens. They live down the road and I consider them to be some of my closest friends. There is a huge age gap between us of course, and this whole Indian fashion thing I have going on I’m sure they are not overly frilled about and find it just a little bit too strange. The lack of interest shown by his mum is reflected in her silence, and all I get from is father is “where is your dot on the forehead?” It can’t be helped, they are of that generation just missing the big hippy movement and did not have the privilege of being a bit more adventitious and open minded. Also, I’m not too sure I have the strength again to defend the Bindi yet again!

The times I have worn the saree I have been adorned with complements, which when I get normally say in the times at work I have made an effort with normal office clothes on the rare occasions my tool box is not required for a certain job, these complements are dismissed or thrown back with “Can’t you see how fat I look in this!” or “I don’t feel nice” or “Well done your right they are not overalls!” or “P*** Off you pervert!”. To have a complement about me wearing my saree means so much to me, not one is forgotten and always treasured. I have had complements from all sort of people of all ages and it would be nice to conduct a study.

A lot of Indian women have loved it. Commented on how well I where it and where I got it from who dressed me

A lot of Indian men said I looked beautiful. One wanted me to join a saree design project, but after I told him I had a boyfriend I would love a Sari designed for my wedding day, funny enough I never heard from him again

Some white women said it looked lovely

White men, nothing, not a word, just strange looks, kind of like a face sucking on a lemon. My neighbour had a fantastic opportunity to comment but instead just stood in the shared hall way with a look on his face shouting “What the Hell are you doing!”

The best complement I ever received was from a 12 year old Indian girl who told me how jealous she was of me as she was too young to wear a saree. I did feel for her, and hope that when she is of age, she still wants to wear a saree.

To be honest. Only one-opinion matters and that is of my boyfriend. He took me on knowing that I had this passion, and he has fully accepted it but kindly reminds me that I am not in fact Indian. I guess if he hadn’t of accepted he wouldn’t be my boyfriend. It is fantastic having someone now to help me choose the right colour and design, another opinion. A lot of my early sarees have a lot of work in them, lots of ‘Bling’ and sparkles, with his help I have found that even the simplest saree can look like a million pounds on me. He is even better at pleating them than me!

I feel for me, a chunky white girl, to wear a saree has to be for a special occasion but I simply do not have enough of those. My next special occasion is to the Theatre to see The Peoples Romeo Tara Arts Presents - The People's Romeo, The Drum - Tickets for Asian events, clubs and nightlife. Latest Asian theatre and concerts. Buy tickets online.

After that Nivrati celebrations which I have been kindly invited to attend the dance, then there is this year Christmas do which regardless of dress code I will be wearing a saree.

I’m sure I’m just being a bit impatient, these are excellent opportunities to were a saree most have the Indian twist, but for me its not enough. I simply want to be in one every day!

Looking at the practicality of it, it would be impossible. I’m an engineer. Steel toe capped boots will not look great. Working at heights, the harness will seriously crumple up everything. Normal working, my Pallu would possible get caught up in some equipment heat exchanger fan and write of some very expensive equipment but more importantly the saree would get damaged. Anyway, the hard hat and high visibility jacket would simply not go.

And with like most infatuations, hobbies and interests, if you perused them 24/7 would they still be as much fun?

So for now, my Sarees are reserved for those special occasions and for behind closed doors. If I could get the courage I’m sure they could have the odd weekend with me now and then.

In a Saree


So I may of got a bit deep back there, my learning curve on Hinduism shall continue and never end. For now I shall continue with sarees.

I would love to know more about them, when was the sari first worn, by who and why, what has affected their designs and what saree for what occasion, I’m sure that during this journey I will find out, found this Sari Saree SARI! « At Home in a Foreign land well worth a study. What I do know, they are the most elegant garment I have ever seen on a female form.

I am no fashion guru, my line of work rarely gives me the opportunity to wear the latest fashions, and even if It did, I am very self-conscious about my small boobs, wide hips and the tyre I have been carrying around my waist since child birth 5 years ago. During the week I am dressed in old baggy jeans which are normally ripped or worn at the knees, not as a fashion statement I add, but the fact that my job has me working on the floor, a baggy polo shirt with the company logo, this I try and keep smart, there is the occasional customer to confront. Steel toe capped boots and the whole thing normally covered in a white Lab coat, some sort of anti static health and safety thing, I don’t mind as it helps hid my backside. During the weekends I find my self in jeans tee shirts and what used to be trainers, now I am approaching mid 30’s is time to grow up a little and start wearing shoes and carrying and handbag. So day-to-day, this is what I look like. Not terribly exciting is it!

So then, why is my wardrobe full of ball gowns, full-length formal dresses, and a cocktail dress worthy of a James bond girl, Saree’s Saree’s saree’s and some fantastic salwar Kameeze?

With me it’s all or nothing. No in-between, so smart casual events I tend to avoid, because I am either extremely formal or crawling around on my knees spanner in hand grease on face.

Formal events are far and few between, to my horror I had a opportunity to wear something Glam to Christmas do passed me, I did not think that the girls would turn up in dresses from Debut I felt awful in my attempted smart casual.

A long dress can hide a mutable of sins, a dress on me brings my waist in and insinuates my curves rather then display them as two beer bellies one on each side. I feel good in a dress, and I want to wear them, but I just feel too dressed up in them just to do the normal weekend things.

At last, the Maxi dress is in, and everyone is wearing them, very elegant very romantic, not so when the pub shuts down the road and the girls are walking out with a whole new design vomited down the front of them. High street shops are full of them and I’m sure that they will be around for a while with the compulsory flower hair clip to one side of the head, flip flops and a big carpet bag. A bit like Mary Poppins on a holiday.

I’m a big fan of the Maxi dress, and have recently brought one that is very popular, and because of that Its properly going to stay in the wardrobe until I start seeing it in the charity shops. I have never been in the predicament of being somewhere when some one has the same thing on, must be a bit awkward especially because one assumes the other looks better!

Of course if you haven’t guessed alreddie I fan of the Saree, when I put one on I feel worthy of parading down a catwalk with a cheeky swagger –

Look at me! Look at me! I’m wearing a saree and it looks fantastic!

As you have gathered my middle is the worst thing of my figure along with my patchy skin, big nose, fine mousey hair, and hairy legs! They all share an equal common ground of ones hatred of their own bodies. So why does a garment that leaves this part of my body open to the elements transform the 9 pounds of unwanted flab in to – why on earth have I been on a diet for the past year! Don’t get me wrong, its still there, but transformed some how.

Its hard to find a saree that isn’t a bit see though, with the nature of the fabric used and the trends of fashion constantly affecting on how a saree is put together, when shown this wonderful organza saree in a small boutique in Ealing road Crawley seeing how my hand was as visible behind the fabric as it would be in front of my face. My initial thoughts were no, but of course a quick drape on the shoulder was a must and 2 seconds later I had brought it.

The pallu hangs of my shoulder and hangs at my side so elegantly, I have very wide shoulders and people have confused me with a professional golfer or swimmer, I should be lucky that shot putting and sumo wrestling were not involved. The sleeves on the blouse makes my shoulders look elegant and not man the pallu sits up there well adding some more femininity. I am tall already, but the saree makes me feel taller, makes me feel a bit more stretched out rather than expanding at the sides. Long soft fabric sways around my feet with beautiful pleats, even better when I have a hand folding them. Once the saree is secured tweaked and pinned in all the right places in the Nivi style that I tend to favour. I don’t ever what to take it off.

I am totally in love, with the Saree of course, not with my self.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Shwetika: White Girl lost in Hinduism: My first visit to a Hindu Temple

Shwetika: White Girl lost in Hinduism: My first visit to a Hindu Temple: "I went to my first Hindu temple in Ealing road, its newly opened. I was stood outside hanning on to the builders fencing surrounding it for ..."

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

My first visit to a Hindu Temple

I went to my first Hindu temple in Ealing road, its newly opened. I was stood outside hanning on to the builders fencing surrounding it for what seamed like for ever, I could not belive somthing so beautiful had been built in London. It took a lady to tell me, its ok, its open you are allowed to go in. It took me a further 10 minuets to compose my self.

I have studied a great deal about temples, especially on the etiquette of entering a temple. My shoes were off, I kept quiet and I was not menstruating. After climbing the stairs and reached the temple, I was close to tears, I have never been anywhere so beautiful so awe-inspiring. The stone work the architecture the detail, and sadly the abundance of CCTV cameras. I saw many deity's that I knew and many I didn't, and have made a note "more study"required. I saw a wooden box by each deity for a donation, this I did not
know about. I kept my distance from the Lady in front dressed in a green and
red Salwar Kamese. Spending a moment with each deity with her hands
pressed together making an offering at each one. I wished I could join in,
at least with the deity that I had studied, to thank them for the positive
affect they are having on my life. A number of people sped past me, I felt a
bit in the way but I could not rush my self any faster than I was already
going. In the middle of the space there were a number of women sat on the
floor some in meditation some just sat there. There was a swing with a deity
on it, who yet I have to work out who it was, the women took turns to swing
him/her using the chain, bells were attached to the rear and it jingled
around the majestic space.

To white Hindus sat in front of Krishna and just behind the barrier, they
looked up at me with wide eyes I had so many questions to ask, but I was
afraid to break my silence.

On my reluctant exit, as I could of stayed there all day, there was a dark
red powder and a tub of white crystals and some water, people were applying
this to there forehead, again, something else I need to study.

I left wanting to return straight away, already planning another trip to a different temple, this one with a museum underneath it, this time I will be taking my voice and not be so scared to ask some questions

My Saree Shame

For a long time I have hidden behind the beauty of Indian fashion, especially the saree.
Every colour under the sun adorned with gold silver,
sequins, mirrors, crystals, stone work, embroidery, beautiful silks,
chiffons, creps, cottons finished with dupattas, a abundance of jewellery
topped of with mendhi, bindis and tikas.

I have many Indian outfits. All of which take a great deal of courage to wear out side the
house, when I get home I can't wait to get in my salwar kameeze, at the
weekend my inside dress is the Saree. But if any one rings the door bell I
quikly strip in to my jeans and tee shirts, like its some sort of dirty

The biggest statement I make is on my hands and feet. During Hindu festivals
my hands and feet are adorned with Henna applied by my loving boyfriend, I
work with my hands and they are very much noticed at work "you've been
drawing on your hands again I see" Is the usual remark, I just srug.
Some of my Sarees have seen the view out side of my house.
My fist time wearing of one (that was not behind closed doors) was to a high profie summer ball. The thing fell off as soon as I got there, half an hour in the ladies I got it just right again not too tight and not too loose, a mistake never to be repeated again! It was black with white stone work and pink sequins, It was contemporary chiffon and I'm sure a lot of people didn't even know it was a saree.

The second time, a wonderful two tone white and green saree with plenty of gold sequin detail. This was worn to see the Merchants of Bollywood in London. Sadly I was by my self as my boyfriend got called away with work, I was shaking like a leaf when I entered the theatre, many people said how wonderful it was and how they wished they had worn there's, some children loved it and were jealous that that were not old enough yet to wear a saree.

The third time was to a Mela I was buzzing for days with complements it ment so much to me hearing complements from Indian people who were very impressed with how well I wear it, how comfortable I look init, a lot of them could not believe that yes, I had put it on my self honest!
Even with all these complements, a lot of my sarees stay under the bed. I dream of wearing them and would love to wear them every day, but still it takes a lot of courage, I feel I am challenging the ways of things, I know there are people that do not approve. My mum for one! A lot of white men who stupidly confuse a saree with a burker, this I can never understand.

I have always been amazed with the saree, it has remained timeless throughout the course of history, unchanged, fashions come and go but the saree is still 9 yards and still being worn. Here in the UK the only time we see sarees being worn is by the elderly, normally assessorized with a beige coat and trainers. The sarees worn by Bollywood actress as they walk down the red carpet to attend the opening of their new film, if only these sarees were seen day to day, I'm sure the Caucasian fashion market would do a U turn. How ever, not so easy to do your shopping in!

Behind my Saree obsession I know there is something more deep and meaningful and this it was I have been discovering. recently The material world of India with beautiful fabrics that can make anyone feel like a Princess but I still feel empty in side. This is where Hinduism has filled a hole


I'm not too sure when this infatuation started, no idea, only some heavy

courses of hypnotherapy might tell me.

Its like is always been there with no influence and no introduction, one of the biggest mysteries of my life.

With age, and sadly with body mass this infatuation with Hinduism has grown,
I'm getting more and more curious and more and more worried that it is
turning in to an obsession that I can never be part of.