When I newly came to Madras nearly four decades ago, shopping for Deepavali sari meant ‘Pattu or Kanjeevaram sari’ and anything less than that was looked down upon especially by close relatives. Therefore one had to necessarily go for the ‘prestigious’ sari, more to avoid raised eyebrows and undesirable comments. Since the variety of fabrics was limited, the choice being between silk with and without zari and Gadwal saris which were of almost the same price, the preference invariably was for the first because of the silver in the zari for its resale value. Reputed shops were as few as three or four, Nallis ranking first on the list of traditional shoppers, then came Lakshman Shah (which is closed), Kumaran (all three in T.Nagar) and Radha Silk in Mylapore.
But today we have branches of all the three spread over different parts of the city and also stocking the ubiquitous salwar sets to keep pace with the changing fashions of Chennaiites. With the arrival of shops like Pothys and Tulsi Silks, and boutiques like Nalli Next and Palam Silks, Chennaiites’ shopping for their festive ware begins much in advance of the festival. As the festival approaches, the inevitable query is, ‘have you finished Deepavali shopping?’ If you say yes, you are asked next, ‘Is it kanjeevaram or anything else?’.The ‘anything’ ranges from silk cottons, mysore silks, georgettes, chiffons, crepes, etc.
If you say you purchased a kanjeevaram silk sari with zari you can consider yourself lucky if the questions stop with that. But don’t be too sure because the smart chennaiite might ask next, ‘is the zari pure or tested?’
n.meera raghavendra rao