Only recently, I was home (as customary, in my PJs) spending quality time with my sibling when out of the blue, I told her that I wanted to try my mother’s sari.
I know it is weird, but I didn’t shy away from wanting to experiment. Thankfully, my sister didn’t need much urging to go get my mother’s green sari and help me try it out. It would go on to become an experiment that would teach me an important life lesson.
As expected, I wasn’t much help to myself. My sister did all the work, and all I could do was to follow her particular instructions to keep holding certain parts of the sari as she continued the complex process. After the initial struggle, I was finally draped in a sari. Although I had to settle without the blouse (I really wanted to go full length but my sister said my mother’s blouse wouldn’t fit me), it still felt proper.
Now the next thing I did was to walk around my parents’ two and a half story house and greet all the elders as if I was a typical new daughter-in-law. In our culture, a new daughter in law is expected to cover her head with the back end of the sari and bow down to the elders. As I walked up and down in search of my parents and my grandmother, I was gasping for breath. From what started out as a fun experiment, this activity turned into one of the best experiential learning tools for empathy.
By jokingly playing the role of a newly-wed female trying to fit in with her in-laws, I inadvertently realized how difficult it really is for a woman to move around in a sari. Although the handling of the sari may get better with experience, I really think it would still be difficult to do daily chores or even move around easily when you’re wearing one. It must be incredibly tiring and the urge to slip into something more simpler and comfortable must be so high.
If you’re wondering what wearing a sari can teach you, then the sari is nothing more than a metaphor for all the things in life that we wish to see other people do but wouldn’t necessarily do ourselves. Think of grand functions (especially in professional settings) when the senior male counterparts insist their female counterparts wear sari so that they look graceful. Sure, the females would look amazing in their saris, but what about the subsequent discomforts that come with it? Would the male counterparts still be insistent on the sari if they themselves had to wear it too?
The sari here is any such demands you make on other people without having to worry for yourself what it is asking of them.
If a sari can teach you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel what they are feeling, what sari will you relieve someone off today?