I was watching a Bengali movie some weeks ago. Swade Alhade. It was about how a woman steps up and takes charge of her life after leaving her abusive husband and in-laws. While it was a truly heartwarming movie and did send across a great message, one thing struck me.
As soon as the protagonist decides to achieve great things in life, she ditches her beautiful saris for a salwar kameez and western clothes. And this transition was not specific to Swade Alhade alone. The names of a host of other movies come to mind where empowerment of women is portrayed, either directly or indirectly, by her moving on from the graceful and traditional sari to salwars, kurtis and western wear.
Not just on the big and small screens, we see this syndrome spreading in our own lives too. Wearing a crisp white shirt with fitting trousers is the preferred alternative to a cotton sari in the boardroom. Even the shyest of us prefer a kurti and leggings to a sari for a lunch with the girls.
While I'm always pro-choice and never, at least consciously, judge people on the basis of their attire; and have nothing against any form of clothing and do wear all kinds of clothes myself, I do lament the decline of the sari. The gorgeous six yards that has graced our women for generations is now relegated to the background and is worn only on special occasions- that too with so many mutations that some forms are almost unrecognizable.
Of what I've seen and heard, many women shy away from donning the sari due to preconceived notions of it being a difficult garment to wear and manage. All I'm saying is- those ideas aren't really true in most cases. The difficulty is often just in our heads. Let's give it a chance to get a revival. Let's give it a shot. Let's ask our moms and grandmoms if they didn't wear a sari while cycling, swimming or even climbing trees.
The sari does not make a girl frumpy or too traditional. It is not a symbol of repression and submission. One can be as much a strong and independent woman in a sari as she can in any other attire.
It is graceful, beautiful and liberating. Just like any other attire.
Remember, it is not your clothes that define you but you that defines your clothes.