This is a word which drives the daylight out of me! My wife has been constantly nagging me. “The wedding of your niece is round the corner and I need to get a decent saree.” I open the almirah and look at the mountain of sarees and compare it with my small pile of pants and shirts.” Where did all these come from,” I question her. “Well, the violet one was a gift from my mother, the brown was given on my sister’s wedding and on it went. I am amazed at her memory! I want to put off this visit to the textile shop. So I ask her, “Why don’t you wear one of these?” “You know,” she said, “I have worn all these sarees on some occasion or the other. You see, if I wear it again what will others think of you?”
Saree purchase seems to be a compulsive disorder for all women in India. With great reluctance, off we went to the saree shop. I tried to pretend as if I was an innocent bystander.
The salesman offered: “What is your range, madam?” Wow, sarees to suit the pocket! The whole section was packed with their husbands in tow. The husbands had also taken the role of babysitters. They had the whole works, toys, waterbottle, pacifiers, towels. I was confused, we talk about men being dominant. But here is a lot who followed their wives, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin!
I wondered, “In this melee, how in the world is she going to get the attention of the salesman, let alone get to the counter?” I looked around, there was a salesman draping himself with a saree to show how the pallu looks. Hey! he looks beautiful in the new costume! Why was he created a male? I noticed that most of the salesmen were clean shaven! The hazards of the job, I guess. There were very few women salespersons. That set me wondering, why mostly men? why not women? They would understand the needs of women better. I still don’t have an answer to it.
I turned around to spot my wife in the crowd. Oh great! she has managed to get to the counter and is already tossing a few sarees around. She is all ears trying to gather the expert comments of other shoppers. She is updating her knowledge on the style, trend and material. She needs to know the latest fashion.
One thing that stumps me is their memory of the price, quality, etc. She asks the salesman to pick one from the stand and then yet another and on it goes. The shelf is almost emptied and the salesman is yet patient. She is not happy with the colour or design and asks for the higher range and moves on. I hide my face in the crowd. I dread to look at the salesman for fear that he may pour scorn on me. I am surprised that my wife has got away with it. I think that, as a consolation for his effort, a saree must be bought.
I am famished standing there, so I quietly move out of the shop. My legs start aching and there is no place to sit. I admire the energy of women, they never tire especially of those activities which interest them; for example, shopping even if it is plain window-shopping!
(The writer’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org)