Friday, November 6, 2020

Once Upon a Blouse...

When I was young, which was, as you know, quite a while ago, saree blouses were almost inevitably made out of a fine cotton fabric called rubia, which was available in hundreds of shades in shops which called themselves matching centres. Rubia was fabulous because it had a little stretchiness, which could accommodate an extra couple of kilos without alterations. In recent years, though, saree blouses have attained an unprecedented freedom. All fabrics, cuts, and styles of  blouses are potential saree-mates. T-shirts and formal office shirts, short kurtis, longer ones, all are happily being worn with sarees. However, for formal occasions like weddings, a fitted, matching saree blouse is still the norm.

So, cut to 2017. Our niece's daughter was getting married. Until we moved from Kolkata in 2013, I was quite comfortable, blouse-wise. I had found both a good tailor as well as matching centres in New Market, and also managed to get some beautiful colours in a silk cotton blend, to wear with silk sarees. Those blouses served me well, and some of them still do. (My daughters don't quite approve of the fitting, but that is another story). But a wedding in the family meant new sarees, and new sarees meant new blouses, and new blouses meant a new tailor. Help. My older daughter's tailor was in the North Campus area, which was much too far away. My younger daughter's tailor was about 10-12 kilometers from our home, which wasn't really a problem, except that she didn't have a fitting room, so it was very difficult to tell her what was actually wrong with the garment she had made. I have actually worn a saree wearing the said ill-fitting blouse, gone to her shop and shown her the fitting, then gone to the nearest mall, changed into another blouse, and gone back to her shop to give her the blouse to rectify. This was not a viable proposition at all. ( Some months ago she expanded her premises and now, to my great relief, has a fitting room too, thank goodness. But let me get back to my story...)

It so happened that an enterprising resident of our housing society started a tailoring concern in one of the basement shops. It seemed logical to try the tailor there. There was also a curtained alcove with a mirror where you could check out the fitting of your garments.And so, a few blouses were given to the tailor master of this establishment. Among them was a cheerful apple green handloom material, with a subtle yellow striped weave, bought to wear with a mango yellow khesh saree with green stripes on the pallu. Sadly, this tailor master was not brilliant.Every blouse required a couple of alterations at least. Although the shop was less than five minutes away from our home, door to door, it was still a tedious business. We also had house guests at the time, so I was busier than usual, and probably more scatterbrained too... 

Somehow, the green blouse went missing. I looked for it high and low, on multiple occasions, before and after the wedding in Goa, where, on one morning, I wore the yellow saree with a kalamkaari blouse, silently mourning the missing green one. All wardrobes were checked, each cushion cover pulled out of the linen cupboard, each towel, each garment in our wardrobes. No sign of it. I finally gave up, concluding that the packet containing it after its last sojourn at the tailor's had accidentally gone out with the trash.I even went and asked the tailor if I had left it with him again. Poor man checked high and low but couldn't find it. I even checked the empty bags and packets in the store...

An apparently pointless digression: Our washing machine had been on its last legs for a while, but thankfully survived the first few strict lockdowns, finally conking off in early August. It stays in the bathroom attached to the store room, a bathroom on two levels, the bathing area lower down, the Indian style toilet area a few inches higher.Our landlord's step stool used to stay on the higher level, with the washing machine in front of it and random stuff on top of it and stuffed below it. (That toilet, of course, was never used).Well, the new machine was to be installed the next day, and the delivery boy took the old one away. It seemed like a good opportunity to clean up the area. There was a giant bag full of bags, there was a bag full of old rags, often required by plumbers, painters, and sundry workmen, there were shoe boxes (often a useful item). I rubbed and scrubbed the floor, and decided to take the step stool out and have the new machine on the higher level. In the interests of both tidiness and ecology, I decided to divide the collection of bags between the housing society's general store and the vegetable shop. All of this happened in early August.

Two days ago the RE went to the basement salon for a (long overdue) haircut, and came home with a clear plastic bag full of packets of namkeens. There was also a newspaper wrapped package in the bag. I asked the RE what was in the package. He asked me if I had given some bags to the shop a while ago, and I said yes. He said that the shopkeeper said that one of madam's garments came along with the packets. Yes, it was the green blouse.

I had visited the shop several times since giving them the bag full of bags. They must have used them much later!

If I had just thrown them out with the (segregated) garbage, I would never have got it back.

I have already given the khesh saree away, but no matter. Sarees will be found. (Or bought).

This saga occurred over more than three years.

I don't think any garment has ever given me so much grief and so much joy!