Of late, I have been indulging in quite a bit of sari shopping, and am more seasoned. It is quite educative to see how diminutive guys who shrink obsequiously behind glossy and glassy counters and are whose hip tilts are more feminine than Umrao Jaan's play fashion pundits for most of the sari-clad population.
The last time I was at Nalli Silks, hellbent on buying cotton, the fashion pundit in drag kept his sweet banter on, telling me that I would look gorgeous in an ostentatiously expensive silk sari that shone like a sheet of the horrible glitter people rub on their faces these days. He battled hard to save their reputation for 'YEXCLIUSIVE PIECE MADAM.....VONLY VONE....HANDLOOMA MAIDE', which was the gyaan he imparted every time I asked him for a colour in a pattern I liked.
It is not always funny when they decide to anticipate your innermost desires, you see. And then he started showing me cotton saris in styles which neither my grandmother nor my grandchildren will ever wear. The sales pitch - It is latest style, all the young girls buy like this only. And when I make a few staid but innovative choices, he remarks to my mother - You have got a vyery vold-fashioned daaterr. Of course, mommy dearest, with also those roses on her kanjivaram filling up the space between her ears, laughs shyly and says it is better her taste doesn't make my bank balance go stale. Our fashion pundit enthusiastically agrees, for he still has to sell a few pieces of 'dress material'.
The rest is quite predictable. He sells absolutely sucky looking dress material to us and bids goodbye with much bowing and scraping.
After that we go to Co-Optex just to 'take a look', which never happens of course, and we end up donating money to the Tamil Nadu handloom industry again. The difference here is, there are no fashion pundits but surly women who refuse to take down a sari from its dusty pedestal unless I promise to buy it.
Today, I had to go for an urgent sari to Dadar. We go to Silk Museum. I ask him to show me something from East India. He shows me Pochampalli saris and agrees that they are what they are only when I point that out to him. I tell him I have enough Pochampalli around the house to start a shop myself and will contact him surely if I need some more.
We then go to the cotton section of the silk museum. Here, the wannabe fashion pundits pulls down the whole rack without sanction and with abandon before he realises that....he will have to put it back all by himself. He tries to sell me Garhwal cotton with saas-bahu prints, orange organdy saris of the kind worn in pure and clean daughter-in-law ads and some more undesirable stuff. Finally I see one the more eminently wearable saris crucified on the wall at an unflattering height. It is rescued and sold off with statements like - Only one sari madam? Hamara museum hain kuch to aur kharidiyen aap...
Manish Malhotra may probably make it to the Forbes 500 if he opens a sari shop and gets behind the counter...