Meet The Saree Man of India Who Wishes We’d Wear Them More Often
Many have succumbed to the seductions of the saree – its gentle drape has bound many a tender waist. But why must the saree be a woman’s prerogative, asks Himanshu Verma.
Can you really answer that question, except to glibly say that that’s how its always been?
It is here that Himanshu begs to differ.
Himanshu Verma has been wearing sarees for the last 12 years – his fascination grew in part because of the curatory work he was doing on the subject. He puts together The Saree Festival every year, a celebration of the garment that pays equal attention to both the contemporary and traditional versions of the garment.
Even though the festival stocks all sorts of sarees, from the subtle ones to the ones high on bling, an older Himanshu seems to prefer the simpler, handloom ones.
Like other boys who sometimes play with their mothers’ sarees, Himanshu also played with them as a child.
When I ask him why he thinks sarees are gender-fluid and not necessarily feminine, he says:
The saree as we know today is actually just 150 years old, and it is what is called the Thakurbari drape or the drape pioneered by the Tagore ladies. It is also associated with the Parsi Bombay ladies. Before that, the saree was worn in so many ways and the men would also wear dhotis and sarees, and in many parts of India the two terms are interchangeable. So I think saree is a generic term and it is not a garment for women specifically.Saree Man
On India’s Relationship with Sarees
I think it is a sort of love-hate relationship. It’s true that only a small percentage is wearing the saree but if you look at saree-wearing among the cognoscenti and the urban elite then you see a lot of women wearing it. So it is not in a sorry state. It’s just that the handloom saris are no longer a part of the common man’s dictionary or vocabulary or even within his reach anymore.Saree Man