On sari memories

Memories are ephemeral – I write this hours before an Introduction to Psychology exam and I might be able to decorate this piece with some scientific terms that are pertinent to the temporary nature of memory. The reader is lucky I am choosing not to do that – some sort of revision though it would provide for me.

Memories are ephemeral – I realized this when I was thinking of how I am on the brink of forgetting that my dadi used to wear saaris during my childhood –  more than a decade ago. My mother had opened her cupboard as my nani demanded that she clean it, and on the lowest shelf were some gorgeous saaris neatly bundled away in a chaadar. I was thinking of how my mother very rarely wore them, how my nani had stopped wearing them (she was lamenting about it right then), but my mind clicked – oh yes, dadi used to wear them!

She’d wear them – in the early 2000’s, when she used to live with us – before she migrated abroad. Every day, she would meticulously wear a saari in the room that my brother and I shared with her. It was quite a ritual – she would never require a mirror to check, I always knew at what time she’d be arranging /wrapping it around herself. I’d plonk myself on the bed and watch her move her hands deftly, folding the pleats using her fingers as a measurement, (the pleats weren’t pre-prepared by the tailor as they are nowadays), tucking them inside and flicking the palu across her shoulder.

I’d accompany her to her evening walks, noticing how everything was firmly in its place, the cotton palu softly swaying in the breeze. At home sometimes, I’d mimic her in the mirror using a large dupatta, always intrigued by her folding of those pleats and trying to copy her.

Years later, I was wearing a saari myself for my school’s farewell, and luckily she was there, on one of her rare visits to Karachi. Sadly – the pleats were tailored – I wanted to pleat them myself, tuck them into the skirt like she did. She appreciated the fall of the saari, the way it had arranged itself (yes, the saari material has to have a peculiar magic of its own), but the deft back-and-forth movement of the fingers that pre-empts the whole magic of throwing the palu across your shoulder was amiss.

More than a year ago, she wore saris again in Karachi – to her grand-daughter’s wedding functions, but my mind did not recall those childhood memories of her wearing saaris at that time. Strangely enough, it decided to recall them when I was there in the same room, where she wore her saaris during my childhood.

Ah yes, context-dependent memory – that explains it.

(Featured image source: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/childhood-memories-robin-champagne.html)


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