Aye, what are you doing looking at the mannequins in the shop window? We haven’t come for window shopping, have we? Let’s go inside and see the collection, suggested my husband, who noticed me standing in awe, admiring all those designer sarees.
Once inside, I was surprised to see only women shoppers in the whole floor which stocked sarees of a wide range — right from designer sarees to rich kanjeevarams not to speak of silk combinations of all kinds.
Why don’t you look around and select something for yourself, meanwhile I shall pick up some natty shirts from the men’s section on the first floor, said my husband.
For once I agreed with him, as I thought we could avoid arguing with each other over our choice of clothes which invariably was different. Among other disagreements we had, our views on colours and shades of sarees and their suitability on the wearer were diametrically opposite.
I first headed to the designer section which was overflowing with women, young and old, almost sitting on each other’s laps on the seats placed opposite. They were closely examining the embellishments on rich silks, discussing among themselves the handwoven floral motifs and kundan work. Just then to my luck one of the women vacated her seat and I quickly occupied it making myself comfortable.
Please show me some pastel colours with zardosi and kundan work, I asked the salesman once I managed to catch his eye.
He appeared to look past me as though to make sure the voice didn’t come from someone behind.
Then turning to me he said, madam, is it for you?
Yes, I said, stressing on the word.
You say you want pastel shades?
Yes, that’s what I want, I said.
Madam, pastel colours will look nice on younger people. Shall I show you some nice shades which you can carry off ? he suggested.
Though the self-styled advisor’s words quite annoyed me, I waited to see what he had in store for people of “my” age.
He appeared to carefully scrutinise the collection from top to bottom and taking out “his” choicest ones laid half-a-dozen sarees before me. I had one look at the dull and shabby shades, the zardosi and kundan work instead of brightening up the saree looked even more pale to match its background.
How do you like these madam? he said.
I shook my head in disapproval. No, I don’t like any of them, so saying I got up cursing the fellow within myself.
Madam, why don’t you have a look at our latest kanjeevarams, I am sure you will like them, he said sounding very condescending.
Though I wished to have a look at the chiffons with embellishments, on second thoughts, I walked towards the kanjeevaram section. I found a number of vacant seats and just a couple of elderly women seated there. They appeared to literally weigh the sarees using their hands as a balance.
I was flattered to notice the salesman giving me singular attention by wanting to know my choice and range.
Show me something that is latest in design and colour , I said.
Amma, we have something just right for you, I am sure you will like them. So saying, he picked up a few sarees from each shelf and spread them before me. They were the usual greens, blues and maroons with zari borders fit to be worn for weddings. The price matched the quality of silk and zari.
Traditional mamis like you should wear something like these. These days even elderly women want to go in for stuff meant for women half their age, he chided pointing towards the overcrowded section of designer sarees.
Just then I saw my husband coming towards me, packet in hand. When I opened it I saw some natty shirts in the latest colours.
Don’t you like my choice, he asked proudly.
Come, let’s go, I said without bothering to answer him.
Have you selected your saree, he asked.
Oh, you women can’t decide even if you have all the time in the world. Why don’t you pick up one of these, he said pointing to the half a dozen sarees which were laid out before me.
No, I don’t like any of themit, let’s go home, it’s getting late, I said, and we walked out of the shop.
Once home, I told him what the two salesmen observed about the kind of sarees/colours/shades people of “my age” should go in for.
The audacity of these creatures. You should have told them it was none of their business as the choice should be left to the customer.
What has your experience been? I asked.
Well, the salesman at the men’s section in fact complimented me on my youthful appearance. He showed me all those natty shirts and recommended a few colours saying that they would further take years off my age.
Probably he believes in the saying a man is as old as he thinks and the salesmen I encountered believes a woman is as old as she looks.
That’s why I have been telling you to dye your hair. Why don’t you listen to me for once, he said.
Yes, I shall, before going for my next round of shopping for my Deepavali saree, I said.
N Meera Raghavendra Rao