Sari for all the trouble (very OT)
- sa·ri [sahr-ee]
noun, plural -ris.
An outer garment consisting of a length of lightweight cloth with one
end wrapped about the waist to form a skirt and the other draped over
Upon seeing my first sari I thought "oh, that's pretty. I think
I can wear that." I hoped that I would pull it off effortlessly like
the elegant and ethereal looking girls at the meditation centre.
Unfortunately, that would not be the case. This 6-yard piece of fabric
turned out to be much more complicated than it first appeared. After so
many trials and tribulations -to which I will give the ominous title
"the silk wars"-I like to think that I have come out the other
side as a stronger person. The following are a few incidents that I
recall from my early days of sari-wearing.
The ties that bind
When I had just joined our meditation centre all of us new girls came
early one evening to put on our requisite saris before our meeting. A
very patient and very kind meditation class giver brought us a beautiful
selection to choose from. After we had chosen our respective favorites
she proceeded to give us a complicated tutorial in how to wear them. I
just could not grasp it at all, literally! The material kept slipping
out of my hand. After about the third attempt to put it on me, it
started to get late and we decided to give it one last try as the
meditation would be starting any minute. Well, I must have wrapped it
way too tight because by the time I had finished I could only take
really tiny steps. I walked penguin-like into the meditation room and
sat down on a cushion. Only, I couldn't exactly cross my legs. All I
could manage was to barely cross my ankles at the end of my mostly
extended legs. My legs fell asleep very quickly and I remember thinking
to myself, "meditation is hard!"
Stiff upper lip
One day I went out in what can only be described as a `cardboard
sari'. Most of you will be familiar with that stiff, starchy fabric
that is impossible to work with when a sari is brand new. Not realising
that the fabric softens with a few washes, I just assumed that was how
it would always look. So I was walking down the street in this shiny,
synthetic thing (and I am certain that if anyone lit a match within a
10-metre radius I would have burst into flames immediately) when I
passed by a group of teenage boys. One of them yelled out "hey! I
want my shower curtain back!" I turned around to give him a look of
disapproval but all I could muster was some stifled laughter. It was a
pretty hilarious thing for him to say!
It's a wrap
I was at a friend's house one night and we were chatting, laughing
and getting ready for an evening meditation. I was about to put my coat
on when she looked me up and down and said "no, no no! That is not
how you wear a sari." Then she gave me a step-by-step lesson. This
was embarrassing to me as I had been putting on my own sari for months
at this point, but it really did help. At last I looked what she deemed
I still need to iron out a few kinks
I have been putting on a sari every single day for several years now.
If you think that makes me some kind of expert, you are wrong. My pleats
are always different lengths, I am constantly adjusting and pulling on
the fabric to try to make it stay in place and it is always too short or
too long (the latter makes the whole sari come undone as it keeps
getting stepped on in the back!). Until recently many of the ends of my
saris were unhemmed which gives a lovely, much-coveted "jungle
lady" appearance. So I have taken up the project of sewing all the
ends in an attempt to look more dignified. I have done about 5 so far
and the quality of sewing could be called satisfactory at best, if done
by a toddler. I am improving with each one though, so I'm saving my
favorite saris for last. Little by little I am looking more presentable
in my saris and I truly do enjoy wearing them. Just don't get me
started on matching blouses and slips
Thanks for tolerating my rant. Until next time,
Ps: I wonder if any of the boys have had struggles with their all white
clothing. I suppose there would never be any dilemmas about matching.
The only thing I can think of is it might be hard to keep them really
white, nothing that can't be solved by buying a bottle of bleach
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Thanks for good article. It reminded me of a post Jogyata wrote many years ago.
I hope Jogyata doesn't mind, if I repost his classic verse here:
In Praise of Whites
I bought myself a pair of whites
The year was '87
They shone resplendent, clean and bright
I thought I'd gone to Heaven.
I thought "let's see how tough these are"
I played a game of soccer
Oh God the mess, I could've wept
I flung them in my locker.
A week went by, I couldn't sleep
I even phoned my mother
"My boy" she said "just trust your whites,
They're sturdy like no other."
I listened to her sage advice
My doubts I had to squash
I took them to the laundromat
Committed to 'The Wash'.
I watched the minutes ticking by
My heart was all aflutter
First wash, then rinse, then spin, Oh God.
My knees had turned to butter.
I wrung my hands, I looked on high
"Oh Lord, I may erred!"
The wash attendant hung her head
For clearly she concurred.
At last the fateful moment came
I lifted up the lid
Oh yippee yippee yippee yay!
I chortled like a kid.
My whites were spotless, gleaming white
As pure as winter snow
"Oh Lord!" I cried, "a miracle!"
My face was all aglow.
So brothers dear, revere your whites
My words you mustn't mock
And should you yearn for extra grace
Just wear them round the clock.
And when 'tis time to leave this world
And no one can arouse ya
Ensure your mortal frame is clad
In-yes-your laundered trousa.
Yes, when the soul has fled the cage
Winged upward to the light
Make sure you're scrubbed up, buffed and clean
Angelic all in white.
And when the good Lord finds the time
To have a tête-à-tête
Be sure you're free of curry stains
For God's sake don't forget!
With a new found appreciation for the simplicity and ease of wearing white!
- So amusing!!! :- )))
Imagine you proudly stand in front of Guru with folded hands and he is taking your picture. You feel like soulfully gazing at him. Then the picture comes to you. You stare at it and think, "For God's sake!" Soon after you tear it into as many pieces as possible, close your eyes and promise to improve; it's not the sari, it's the consciousness.
> Ps: I wonder if any of the boys have had struggles with their allAbsolutely, and here is one such story.
> white clothing.
During one August celebration in NY, on August 26th, a day before the central celebration day, Sri Chinmoy announced that he would appreciate if boys would wear white dhotis for that special upcoming day.
It was at the end of the morning function and after the announcement, people started dispersing for lunch, while many boys around me (we were sitting on the bleachers) chatted about where to find and buy an inexpensive dhoti in NYC on such a short notice. Soon everyone rushed out on a dhoti-hunting spree, seemingly proud that they will be seen as exemplary disciples who respond quickly to do their spiritual homework.
But not everyone. When I was about 3-6 years old, one side of my family enjoyed to have me have a long hair alike some pop/rock starts of the day, while another side of the family was totally fear struck that this will make me grow up girlish. So later on I was strictly forbidden to have or wear anything that can be seen as "girly": strictly short hair, no clogs (wooden shoes, clompen as someone call these) etc.
Now, dhoti, in my mind, always resembled a sort of skirt, and for that reason, a huge resistance to wear it came over me. I left the aspiration ground almost shaking... how on earth am I going to put on a skirt? Well... with tremendous resistance and struggle I approached a store that potentialy sold dhotis, but then, seeing another disciple moving about, I simply cracked and broke down, and could not do it.
I went back to the aspiration ground, Sri Chinmoy was still sitting there relaxing while the lunch break, sat in the bleachers and cried within, addresing it to him - It's a skirt, It's a SKIRT! How am I to wear a skirt like a girl? I just can't - can't wear a skirt.
Now, Sri Chinmoy seemed in his own world, but at that moment he nodded his head as if understanding and approving. Since there were not many people around and certainly he wasn't talking to anyone, I felt that his nod is directed towards me, as if telling me - it's ok, I understand. I felt relieved and soon forgot about it, ignoring the dhoti-peer-pressure that thickly filled the air for the rest of the day.
Then, the next morning function, with many boys with their dhoti glitter on display, Sri Chinmoy came in regular sportsy clothes. Someone near me even commented... why, we got our dhotis all nice and shiny and guru is so casual ?! Well... I thanked him once again.
On a more serious note, this incident taught me something about obediance to a spiritual master. There is a lot of general hoopla in the West about the situation when a spiritual master asks a disciple something, and then disciple, if he/she is "really devoted" will go thru thick and thin to fulfill the request... but look here: being kindly asked by a spiritual master to wear a different kind of garment for one specific occasion, and failing even such seemingly super-easy task with a tremendous inner struggle; and then met with inner support and understanding?
- Wow, thanks for sharing your story.
By the way, if you're ever required to wear a dhoti again, see if you can't just get away with a kurta top and some pants. Unobservant people like me won't even notice the difference!
Take care, Brahmata
- Hi Brahmata,
It's been a long time since I visited the site, but I couldn't help but share the story of the first time I wore a sari.
I had been going to follow up classes at the center and enjoying them very much. I was having some quite nice meditations, so I decided to take the plunge and join the center.
I was told that we would wear saris and that the girls would help me to learn how to put them on. I really liked this idea.
I arrived for my first regular meditation at the center and I was very eager and excited to join the regular group. Unfortunately for whatever reason the girls at the time didn't realise that I was coming and were not prepared with sari, slip or blouse so I was told that for that week I could meditate in my regular clothes. I was grateful to be allowed to meditate without the proper attire, so I sat in a chair close to the back and joined in the meditation.
It was a very strange experience that night because after having had some nice experiences in the follow ups, I assumed that this would be the same. But I was wrong. I sat there like a stone trying to meditate, and nothing. I watched everyone else who seemed to be tuned into the meditation, and I just sat there wondering when this would be over.
Hum de dum de dum, time passed very slowly and finally it was over and I was able to escape. On my walk back home I had convinced myself that I would not go back. I had tried, but it just didn't work for me. Oh well.
But something kept nagging at me all week, pushing me to go just one more time. My mind tried to push it away, but finally it relented and said "Fine.One more time. But if it's like last time, we're outta there."
So once again I showed up, and this time the girls were prepared and presented me with a lovely flowered sari in colours that absolutely suited me. They showed me how to put it on, and I felt transformed. There was something about the beautiful flowing cloth that made me feel special. Also everyone was oohing and ahhing and making a lovely fuss which also helped add to that special feeling.
The time came for meditation, and I was a little leary because of the previous week's experience, but I decided to be open to whatever was to be.
Almost instantly a meditation captured me. A meditation like I'd had never had before and to be honest,have never had since. My mind completely disappeared, and I was in a beautiful blissful world. So much so that after the meditation, I couldn't speak. I just quietly changed out of my beautiful sari, and walked home in complete silence. That beautiful feeling continued throughout most of the next day.
I realise of course that that experience was Guru saying "Hello and Welcome." but I always associate that incredible experience with the first time ever wearing a sari, and how beautiful it made me feel, inside and out, and that somehow wearing the sari changed my meditation experience.
I am still not an expert sari draper by any means, but I do love the beauty of them when I wear them.
Yours in sari oneness,