Sari Charlie!

3 Mar

Park your camel. Park your motorcycle. Johdpur.

While the far-traveled sendmoneyplease was traipsing the globe a year or so ago, he picked up a gift for me: a sari. Now, for a guy who’s backpacking for months at a time, I am fully appreciative of the effort that went into this gift on his part – it included spending the better part of a (no doubt) excruciating afternoon in a woman’s world – sitting on the floor of a fabric shop, having a crayon-box full of colors and materials and sequins and sparkles thrust in front of his eyes for consideration, all the while, I’m sure, trying to describe the fickle female whims of an absent westerner, her height and measurements converted into imperial standards. It’s overwhelming for me – and I’m a clothes shopper with the best of them!

The garment district, Johdpur.

He did fantastically, choosing a simple lavender-grey silk, and I love it. I really couldn’t have done better myself. But even then, after being barraged with an impossible selection, and negotiating a price, only then came the most difficult part – he had to carry this precious cargo with him for the remainder of the trip, another couple months, taking up valuable space and weight in an already stuffed backpack that had made it around more than half of the earth’s longitudinal lines, but still had half the world to go.

Old town of Jodhpur.

However, the fabric, beautiful as it is, remains unfinished. It’s a several meter long scarf at the moment – but to be worn as a sari, it’ll take several more components. And so I set off to complete the outfit.

Glass bangles, bazaar, Jodhpur.

India is every costume designer’s dream. In a country where even the camels and the rickshaws all have shimmering metallic tassels, flower-shaped ornaments, framed photos and mylar streamers, the ladies’ “everyday wear” does not disappoint – bedecked with sequins and borders and colors and patterns. You can have anything sewn to your exact size and specifications in record time.

Old meets (somewhat) newer technology.

So we set off to find a tailor. We walk through a tangle of Jodhpur’s old city streets and alleyways, past cows and dogs and goats and shops lined with aluminum cookware, fresh vegetables and fried dough – to find a one-room tailor shop with an older gentleman, balancing a pair of spectacles and a tape measure around his neck.

Old town, Johdpur.

Now, this is really just the beginning of the process – because though he has the patterns, and a young lady who helps him sew, and his sewing machine (an historic foot-pedal model rigged up to a makeshift electric motor on the table), he doesn’t have any fabric – for that you have to visit another specialist.

The blue city of Jodhpur.

Handwritten address in hand, we weave deeper into this maze of backroad vendors – to find the wholesale sari/fabric/trim neighborhood – the garment district of Jodhpur. With the help of the shop’s owner and some very curious ladies in the shop (“Why do you want to wear a sari when you’re so comfortable in your own pants?”), I finally decide upon two textiles: a beautiful crinkled lavender which was everyone’s favorite, and a plain silver that I have a feeling will be the better match. Also included in the purchase (and the educational lesson) was the readymade cotton petticoat underskirt and, later on, some lovely silver trim I’m hoping to add.


Bazaar, Jodhpur.

A mere 24 hours later, I’ve got my two sari-tops in hand – and I can’t wait to finally put all the pieces together for the first time.


[An important note: I take no credit for this title – that honor goes to the very witty sendmoneyplease(thank you honey!). Also, it strangely doesn’t translate at all into Australian English, to which my travel companions will attest.]

My hotel courtyard, Jodhpur.


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