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Where Have All The Saree-clad Pretty Women Of Kolkata Gone?

Except for a Saraswati Puja, or an Ashtamir anjali, occasions where wearing a saree is almost mandatory owing to age-old tradition, where have all the
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in her famous saree-avatar in 'Devdas'
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Kolkata, recently, has witnessed a sudden spurt in selling of sarees. Nicely-decorated saree boutiques adorn every nook and corner of the city and sarees are flying off the shelves like never before. But the veritable question that arises is: Are there enough women wearing these sarees in the city?

Except for a Saraswati Puja, or an ‘Ashtamir anjali’, occasions where wearing a saree is almost mandatory owing to age-old tradition, where have all the saree-clad damsels gone? did a recce.

The gorgeous Deepika Padukone in a saree
The gorgeous Deepika Padukone in a saree

According to popular television host Sudipa Chatterjee, who is selling sarees under the label of the same name for the last three-and-half years, young Kolkata women buy cheap sarees which they can wear on various occasions. Since they don’t believe in repeating their sarees, they buy three or four sarees at a time and are done with. There are no repeat buys. “When we were young, we wanted to own a Kanjeevaram or a Banarasi saree of our own. But that trend doesn’t exist anymore. With the onslaught of social media, the young generation wants to buy sarees alright, but cheap ones, which they can flaunt on Facebook. So, the amount with which we bought an expensive saree back in our days, has been replaced by buying may be four sarees with the same price. That’s it. There are hardly any repeat buys,” she rues.

The increase of outlets may tell a different story, but, the reality seems to be quite different. The decreasing trend of buying sarees is directly proportional to the selling of sarees as well. There are a number of reasons. “As far as Bengal is concerned, a son of a tantee doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps anymore. He would rather work as a security guard at an air-conditioned ATM kiosk. Plus, bulk of the young women not buying expensive and exclusive sarees, has given rise to the decline of weaving these exclusive sarees. In addition to that weaving sarees like the Baluchari or Swarnachari is extremely tedious. As such, exclusive sarees that once held pride of place in Bengal are not being weaved in same quantities like before anymore. Poor marketing that had been the bane for the Bengali for too long, hasn’t quite gone away even now. “Even Odisha is ahead of us in marketing. Hence, for people outside of Bengal, sarees from Bengal still means red-and-white. People are hardly aware of the wide array of the exclusive sarees woven in Bengal,” says Sudipa.

Actor Jaya Ahsan in a Dhakai Jamdani
Actor Jaya Ahsan in a Dhakai Jamdani

As such, in this age of fast fashion, much like fast food, wearing a saree seems to have been put on the back burner. Also, the fact that handlooms are being replaced by power looms, and class bartered for the ordinary and the cheap, it’s gratification in instant noodles.

The other side of the story is not very encouraging either. Earlier, there was an unwritten rule that working women would wear a saree. “Not anymore. Women are more comfortable in wearing dresses or westerns as compared to a saree. Hence, our sarees are restricted to those who work in schools or colleges, that too for a limited clientele” says Sudipa.”

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Her words are echoed by Sanghamitra Banerjee, a college student. She has a fascination for sarees alright, but isn’t quite discerning when it comes to buying an exclusive saree. “I buy hardly two or three sarees in a year for occasions like college fests or Pujo. I mostly buy handlooms and linens because of its pocket-friendly tag (maximum Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 3,000), and good fall and drape. Otherwise, I like wearing attire that I am more comfortable in, something which I can carry off easily,” she says.

So, what happens to the sarees priced at Rs 70,000 to a lakh? “Those are reserved for the NRIs and a clientele outside West Bengal, mainly Delhi and Mumbai and to an extent, south India. “This clientele has a tendency to go low on jewellery. Hence, they show-off sarees which they buy at such expensive rates as between Rs 60,000 and Rs.1,00,000 or even more,” says Sudipa.

Director-actor Aparna Sen in a Bengal tussar
Director-actor Aparna Sen in a Bengal tussar

Yet, amidst all this furore, is anyone giving a thought to the environment hazards? Whether its youngsters buying loads of cheap stuff or non-resident Indians piling up on expensive ones, is anyone bothered about such ugly hoarding? In this age of climate control, is anyone even bothered about the immense environmental hazard that it is posing for the world?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind…

All images: Google 

A journalist.

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