Imagine blogging long enough to have gone through significant life stages with a woman from another culture.
Priya and I connected about five years ago. At the time, I saw a young, single, enthusiastically independent and intelligent young woman who taught school and seemed to have been bitten by the infectious bug to write. Many of us from different parts of the world subscribed to her blog and thoroughly enjoyed her determined struggle to write with perfect self-expression.
Many times I sighed over the familiarity of her agonies and self-deprecating protestations.
Priya decided to stop blogging and for a while we lost touch. The loss was noticeable. It meant missing a vibrancy; a youthful defiance that confirmed a “veil of little difference” i.e. differing cultures held no barrier to our womanly experience. I felt I’d lost someone to cheer over – one who would squeeze the mystery out of any situation that got in her way. As she eked realization and insight out of one of life’s puzzling bundles, I imagined her giving it a final kick as she walked away smiling.
A while later, I discovered Priya on Face Book. To my delight, she accepted my “friend” request and I soon learned she had married. Thrilled, I studied the detail in photos of her wedding; often ending up with more questions than answers. The colour of her saree, the species of flowers, the hennaed hands, the gold jewellery, the expressions on her face, the calm appearance of the groom, the ceremony, the glow of happiness of guests. I didn’t dare ask all the questions my curious nature conjured.
No surpise, the next year, Priya announced a pending birth. She and her husband were about to welcome a most beautiful daughter. Even though it’s only through photos, I sense this child’s joy and delight in fully discovering life.
The other day, Priya posted a photo of her holding her daughter as they sat beside a peaceful lake surrounded by trees. (See photo below) It portrays an intimacy shared during an immersion of motherly love. Much moved, I wrote a comment and added, “I just washed a saree this morning and was thinking of you!“
Priya responded with surprise, letting me know she thought it was cool that I wore a saree. Oops. I created a false image. I own a saree, but I don’t wear one.
In fact, I want Priya to know about my saree. And I want to declare that I accept I’m not able to mimic the women who legitimately wear sarees with graceful movements, gorgeous, glowing skin and shiny black hair. I have no clue about the garment needed before the saree is wrapped. I’m embarrassed that I can’t don a saree properly in spite of excellent instructions on the internet. I took each step and fold in stride, but am doing something wrong.
Likely it would only take Priya a second to show me a simple oversight that would secure the saree. However, the exercise gave me compassion for young girls who have to learn this technique.
So why do I have a saree?
A tiny shop on our island began importing goods from various parts of the world. One day I popped in and I saw a number of sarees on display. “Are these real?” I asked.
“Yes, they’re all second-hand. I picked them up in India,” the shop owner said. “I couldn’t resist bringing them back to Canada with me.”
A wave of inexplicable familiarity went through me. I’m not much of a consumer, but I found myself pouring over the colors of these garments and their fabric choices. My practical side kicked in – I decided I could buy a saree as a window dressing for my bedroom.
After purchasing it and draping around my window, I signed up for a Soul Safari in Africa. Ainsley MacLeod, a psychic, came with us. One day he told me I have a Guide who wanted to reveal herself to me. She had been my mother in India. I was a very young child and we faced starvation. Her agony over watching my slow death caused her to risk feeding me the only water she had. It was brackish and it poisoned me.
This beautiful, caring soul wanted to confirm she has been with me throughout all my subsequent incarnations. She declared her undying love and confirmed she will continue to be an overseer. Any time I want her help, she assured she will be by my side.
While sitting in that South African sunset, listening to this message delivered by Ainsley, my thoughts went to my saree. No wonder I took to it instantly. A deep familiarity had cut through centuries. No wonder it gave comfort as the last thing I saw before turning out the light at night and the first sight of my mornings.
A couple of years after this message, I had occasion to describe my saree to another Indian woman – another blogger. She asked me if I’d considered the work that had gone into its creation. “Take a look at the design on your saree. Every one of those flower petals were hand placed and stitched. Every sequin was carefully placed and sewn by hand. It takes a great deal of time and energy to create a saree.”
I went to my bedroom and took a closer look. Every tiny stitch my hand? Every one of those slippery, shiny sequins? How many hours did a woman have to spend on one saree? I was beginning to realize I’d been picking up the energy of one woman who had done all this work on one saree.
I wrote back to this other Indian woman expressing my deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, sarees. I asked if these women were well compensated for such great work.
Unfortunately, they are not, she explained. She told me, after years and years of this work, it’s not unusual for women to lose their eyesight. One of her aunts spent her life sewing sarees and is now blind.
So Priya, though I don’t wear my saree, it wraps my heart in more ways than I realized the day I bundled it under my arm. I left that shop feeling I was bringing a piece of me home. And today, I’m still discovering how much home it holds.