Imagine blogging long enough to have gone through significant life stages with a woman from another culture.
Thanks to Priya, a blogger from India, I’m given this welcome experience. (Her blog is “Particularly Interested”)
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.
What a beautiful sharing of your heart in this post Amy. Thank you. Just this…Thank you.
Joceline, you are such a very dear soul! Mwahhhhh!💋
Tears. You have woven a beautiful heart-warming perfect story here Amy. Thank you for sharing it with us. I’m also an old blogging buddy of Priya’s and I saw your sari conversation on her Facebook page. I love how it led you to share your story. Amazing how your Indian mother led you to that shop to buy that magnificent sari.
Thank you, Rosie – speaking of being led, it seems you also practice receptivity. I’m amazed at what continues to fill each of our lives with such abundance.
I would have loved Priya’s permission to post the photo of her daughter and her. If she contacts me and offers her okay, I’ll post it in an instant!
We’ll have to wait for Priya to wake up – Its not even 6 am in India. I’m sure she’s going to be as bowled over by your story as I was.
Wow, this is an amazing story! I loved it. We do have these strong connections, and it is no surprise to me, that you once lived in India. I believe I must have too – also in Africa, as I feel such strong connections there. I once had a waking vision of myself among rows of blanket-wrapped dead-eyed women in early morning in the Gulag. I was fascinated with the Gulag in my 20’s………our souls remember these lifetimes………
It’s true, Sherry, we do remember – though many just brush it off as imagination. While I was in Africa, I had a past life regression. I was on my beautiful stallion and was galloping like lightening over the savannah, chased by the Boers. I reached my farmhouse in time to make sure the African people had fulfilled my request and had kindly taken my children to safety. The Boers caught up with me, roared into my home and shot me in the chest. My husband had been killed by them before this, but I had kept on with some of the “intelligence” work. But I remember the ankle length suede leather riding skirt I wore and the boots that went half way up my shins. I faced death knowing it would be over quickly, grateful the African people knew how to care for my children and knew they’d contact family in England.
I live where hearts meet over tea and sunlit breezes and entwine with tacit understanding of the air carrying hardship around us. I am positive you must, too. There are so many things to look forward to in a day! Like your beautiful saree drape. Besides the goosebump-y quality of these connections, what I like best is that one gets a sense of ‘home’ away from physical home. It is splendid that your spirit gets a heady jaunt around your soul-territory with the saree. I feel I get it with all things Buddhist. It feels like home away from home — with all of its lovely familiarity. 🙂
I feel humbled to know that you followed my posts with the interest you talk about. It means a lot to me — and you will understand just how much, because you have been following the emotional upheavals I have felt over these years, particularly in relation to my writing and its acceptance.
Even as I write here, the Facebook page is open, and I know you are awake out there, perhaps sitting in front of your computer screen and, when I hit the reply button here, you will instantly get this message. It fills my heart to know that the emotions I feel right now will travel all distances instantly. Our souls and spirits travel this fast, too, I presume. Only, there are no lit-up screens to announce their arrival. It is marvellous that your friend told you about the Indian woman and her connection with you. How momentous to know one’s ‘history’!
I hope you enjoy the fabric’s intricate design for all times to come!
It will be a happy feeling to see our — Bela’s and mine — photo here. Please do!
Oh, Priya…many thanks for your permission and all your graciousness. What a joy to read your beautiful descriptives again. I’ve now linked your (new) blog and added the photo of Bela and you to the post.
I’ve missed you on the blogosphere and no wonder. I hadn’t subscribed to this newer blog. Being connected on Face Book gave me a false sense of connection.
Look forward to stories from and about the Himalayan regions of your country.
I know this isn’t my discussion Amy, but I have to butt in so I can tell Priya how the first sentence in her beautiful comment has left me speechless:
“I live where hearts meet over tea and sunlit breezes and entwine with tacit understanding of the air carrying hardship around us”
I hope I can have tea with you one day.
Yes, I read that line a number of times. Priya does that, doesn’t she…she put images together so well and I just have to stop to absorb it.
Rosie, it won’t surprise me if one day one of us will be on the move and it’ll be a perfect time to connect somewhere in person. While I have a wee puss that needs meds 3 x per day, I’m island bound. I don’t mind, however, because I traveled myself out during my careers. Being home is a pleasure.
First of all, it amuses me that the hard little kernel of people I follow and those who reciprocate seem, quite by accident, to follow each other as well. I have a hard time explaining this phenomenon to people who don’t blog. I can only assume that as we read comments on other blogs, we somehow connect with new bloggers and off we go, creating this really amazing international community.
Your sari story reminds me of the kimono that hangs, woefully unworn, in my closet. It was given to me several years ago by an expate Japanese neighbor who was trying to sell kimonos. I oohed and ahed over her beautiful collection, knowing all the while that it would be silly for this very white bread American to have a kimono. She, of course, paid careful attention to the items that I lingered longest over and then later presented me with a lovely kimono which leaves me feeling slightly guilty for the neglect I’ve shown it. I have another friend who has visited Japan and bought a kimono, learned how to wear it, and does so with great pride. Dang, I wish I had that sort of panache.
Mostly, I wonder how one eats while wearing either a sari or a kimono. Alas, I envision myself dragging my sleeves through the gravy!
Yes, it’s true that we’ve woven an interesting mosaic with our blog bouncing. I agree that we feed off one another – I have just thought how great that I’ve found the blogs I enjoy (and read altogether too seldom) – ones that truly have something to say. I like what you write AND the way you put words together!
But you! You are such a consistent presence, Linda, in all these different blogs. Thanks for serving our community nutrition – no fluff or flattery.
Yes this Saree has had a surprising grip on me. And now it’s deepened again! Amazing piece of material. If only I could simply find the woman who sewed all those stitches and let her feel some appreciation.
Perhaps your Beloveds will somehow help send the message to it’s target.
(BTW, it’s just FOMO- Fear of missing out- that keeps me popping in and out of the blogosphere. ;-o)
Your deep connection and love for Priya is heavenly! I am wonderstruck that bloggers can develop such a deep bonding. Your mystical love for saree is equally mystifying! I have always loved sarees, a childhood fascination, which was grabbed with full panache when I grew up and keep them adding to my wardrobe, wore them with the greatest pleasure each and everyday till I felt I have satisfied my urge! Alas, all of them are hanging in my wardrobe, thousands of miles away and I can no longer wear them here, in the states with the thought of feeling out of place but I treasure my collection more than a chest full of money.
I esteem your understanding of appreciating the handwoven saree that you value so much. I am truly moved by this narrative, the tone of attachment that runs through this article and your beautiful saree! Thanks for sharing.
Balroop, I am realizing how much I’d love to know more about your saree experience. I’m intrigued to learn that you were fascinated by them from childhood. Was it a sign of stepping out of childhood and becoming a young woman? Did they always make you feel beautiful? Did you strive to mix colours cleverly? When you put one on now, do you discover even deeper feelings of grace and elegance? See? Too many questions.
It’s hard to imagine your beautiful saree’s not being worn. I wonder what kind of grieving is done over letting go of one’s cultural dress. If you lived on my island, I’d ask if we could have a very special event with your help where western women were invited to spend a week living and working in a proper saree. I wonder what we’d discover – about ourselves and others. Dress styles are powerful and I’m realizing how unexplored it is cross-culturally in so many cases. (Not in yours!)
Thank you for sharing such an interesting insight about “growing into” sarees.
Oh yes! A saree adds a unique elegance to your persona, even more than an evening gown, is considered to be the sexiest dress when worn to entice. It comes in all colors and modern designers have added their own style and blend of colors id truly remarkable. Traditional sarees are still considered to be more valuable for their styles and the labor that goes into weaving them.
Now I wear it for special occasions and ones worn at such occasions are special too, chosen with greater care, bright coloured are preferred to enhance and celebrate it. Recently I wore my black and white one to celebrate the first halloween of my grand daughter but I had worn a bright pink for the graduation of my daughter. Now I am looking forward to the graduation of my niece to wear another one I had brought here. Each time I visit India, I pack two of them into my suitcase.
So sweet of you to let your imagination soar about holding a special event for a saree!
There’s a whole world of womanhood we can learn from each other. Just womanhood. Again, Balroop, many thanks for sharing YOU to this Western woman.
Sometimes, the WWW isn’t so wide after all. The relationships we foster come about and how can we say we connect with the ones we do. At times, I begin to blog with someone and notice a few similarities between us. Is it energy drawing us to them? Are we gravitating to the interests posted by them? Who can say … I do know that connecting to the blogger fulfills a holllow space that neede filling.
Apparently we will inevitably connect with soul family members. Maybe that’s the draw and pull, Isadora. The internet is surely adding much to that connectivity. I like it. Some bloggers feel as familiar as some blood family members.
Stunning, delectable, gorgeous piece.
I love all of the layers and beauty in these words, Amy.
I’ve continually been attracted to sarees.
Such grace, flowing material, spirituality, femininity.
That just made me smile 🙂 Its sucha nice thing to hear that we can meet people virtually thourgh our blogoshpere and they can touch our heart in some way or the other! I am from india too! Not that I wear sarees all that much but I love them occasionally ! It was wonderful that you picked this one up!
Hi Rashmi, thanks very much for your comment. I just visited your site and have big grins over the matter of 500 points! I’m so curious, maybe I can spread my questions out to different Indian women: Was it difficult to learn how to dress in a saree, Rashmi? What age does a young girl begin to learn?
hehe! You ask a person who after being married for 3 years still doesn’t know how to tie a saree (since sarees are like a must wear in India after wedding, generally speaking)! I still find it difficult, I youtube or resort to the salon lady to do it for me! Though my Mom does it effortlessly, but I feel if you don’t drape it properly the saree looses its charm!
About what age does a girl learn at depends on her liking! My sister knows how to tie a saree from the age of 15 and she loves to flaunt one on special occasions! So it totally depends !
Thanks, Rashmi, I learned two things: you say you “tie” a saree. I wasn’t sure if another word was used – tucked, wrapped, secured… Also, I like the idea of the young woman deciding when she wants to begin wearing sarees. Ooops, there’s three things – doesn’t femininity race through cultural veins? We woman can all love to “flaunt” on occasion!
Actually drape a saree is perfectly correct. Tie a saree comes from speaking too much in the native language and converting!
That makes total sense, Rashmi. Thank you.
Your Saree is beautiful. I do think they are so elegant. When I was teaching 3rd grade at Laval West Elementary school, many years go, my friend Prem Gupta taught 4th grade and she wore hers every day to school. So many incredible colors and designs. It was a wonderful learning experience for all the students in the school, we too lost touch, you have made me wonder if I could find her again through FB. I would have to post a pic of a young me, I Look so different now lol.
Prem must have been a great source of learning for students. If that was a school in Montreal, its cosmopolitan nature of the city would have made it easier for Prem to continue wearing traditional dress. Imagine her lasting influence on young people so they would shy away less from anything different as they grew older. I hope you manage to find her. Was that her married name?
Yes that was her married name, trying to remember her husbands first name
What a touching story about a magical garment, Amy! About mothers, sisters, past lives and traditions and how we are all connected, somehow. I love the way you’ve woven all the strands together, as skilfully as those dedicated Indian women, creating these beautiful works of art! 🙂
And Jacqueline – I love the “insider peeks” into wearing sarees. I’ve watched some Indian women in sarees – so graceful, the fabric swaying and suggesting a curvy sensuous figure – and wondered, “Is this orchestrated to be this beautiful or does the saree simply create this beauty all by itself?” I love learning that OF COURSE we women share the desire to enchant whenever we can! What an opportunity the saree presents!
An absolutely fabulous life story; a story that touches the heart.
Though what I am going to say might be construed as a ‘familiarity bias’ and at the risk of getting criticised for that, I would still venture to say that the Saree is one of the most sensual and innovative feminine apparel ever created. It covers, silhouettes and reveals the feminine form in myriad and mysterious ways, unique to the wearer. The fabric, texture, designs and hues of Sarees in existence are close to being infinite! If someone doubts this, one only needs to visit a specialty Saree Emporium in India……
I remain somewhat intrigued by how your mind’s eye connected the dots between Priya’s picture and the saree you own. Certainly not what Priya is wearing ( she is sensibly attired in warm clothings); more to do with her also living in India I suppose.
I am also left wondering about your belief about what the soul safari psychic related to you.
Great post Amy, keep them coming. I can only say that my recent irregularity in visiting here is a personal loss!
What a fabulous comment, Shakti – it’s good to hear a man’s point of view about the saree. I’m beginning to realize that the intrigue I’ve felt about these sensuous garments is completely valid.
Priya’s wedding had been captured in photos – complete with a most elegant saree and all other customary accoutrements. As one unfamiliar with the customs, I was dazzled – heightened by my sense of being a bit familiar with who Priya was through her writing.
I have appreciated receiving explanations of feelings and personal thoughts about sarees. It’s great learning about other cultures, but it’s a privilege to have intimate thoughts shared. Through this, I’m shown another instance where we are so alike at the core!
My belief? Reincarnation seems to provide many explanations for a variety of mysteries.