I tuck the folds into my skirt, smoothing the creases and lining up the bunched material, trying to make it even and elegant. It’s my first time wearing a sari, not to mention facing the challenge of dressing myself in one. My cell phone rings, and my friend whose picking myself and my roommate up to take us to the wedding reception asks me if we’re ready.
“Um,” I falter. “Almost.”
A laugh on the other end of the line.
“How long do you need?”
Half an hour later, my roommate and I hop into the car (read: carefully lift the six meters of material wrapped around my body to manoeuvre my way into the vehicle without falling over) and make our way to my first Indian wedding reception.
We walk into the venue. From the outside, a series of pitched tents, their canvas walls hiding the reception festivities set for the 800 guests. We walk through the receiving line, congratulating the family members of the happy couple, and hoping to communicate to them just how grateful I feel to count myself amount their guests.
From the inside, various chandelier fixtures hang from the tent ceiling. Dozens and dozens of tables. Flower centrepieces reaching to the canvas ceiling. One tent covers the array of buffet tables with food fancies. Another tent has cushions, and stools, and cloths of bright colours. It looks like an enchanted tea room that would delight the imagination of Alice in Wonderland.
We find a table, and I snack on paneer samosas and grilled cassava, sipping passion fruit juice, as we wait for the bride and groom to arrive.
And when they arrive, it is to a great cheer, and the newlyweds partake in a tradition of a competition to see who will be the first one to break a clay pot. Apparently, whoever breaks it first will be the one to “wear the pants in the relationship.” Obviously, the beautiful bride breaks the pot first.
The food is delicious, the atmosphere is festive, and it’s such a treat to be part of it. So I decide to enjoy a dessert treat, a delicious little Indian bite of delight, in a syrupy sauce. I walk carefully over to the dessert table, daintily picking up my skirt and holding the material draped around my arm. I make it to the table without incident and wait my turn to take two of these delicious timbit-like desserts. Alas, as I am going to pick up one of the sweet delights, the spoon jumps out of my hand, and the syrupy ball bounces onto my sari and not my plate! The sugar water is sliding down the front of my borrowed sari.
I freeze. I put the spoon back. I walk away. I rush to find my colleague who I’ve borrowed the sari from and apologize profusely. She consoles me ever so kindly.
You can put the girl in the sari. But it’s a bit more difficult to put the grace of sari wearing in the girl.