Saree not sorry

Women in India are regularly dressed in beautiful, bright colored saris. And last night I got my turn.

My amazing host mom, Shanthi, lent me a bright pink saree for a Rotary meeting in Puttur. The saree isn’t like normal clothing, it takes time and practice to put it on.

First Shanthi pulled a light pink, floor length cotton skirt up around my waist and tied it tight with a drawstring. Then, I put on a hot pink crop top that fastened in the front and was embroidered with gold patterns in the back.

Then the real work began. Shanthi began furiously folding the pink striped saree, a ten-foot long strip of fabric. She then draped it over my shoulder, fastened it to my top with a pin and wrapped my lower half with the remaining fabric, tucking it into my skirt. With one more safety pin, she secured the sari to the skirt.

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Suzanne and I wear sarees and pose for a picture with our host sister and host dad, Vishwas Shenoy.

Wearing a saree is hard work. It feels like at any second the whole thing is going to come unfurled. You have to take small steps, or else your legs get caught in the fabric and you risk stepping on the skirt. Depending on how it is tied, the outfit exposes almost your entire stomach. So, throughout the night I was flexing my abs and maintaining perfect posture (not such a bad thing.)

Women at the meeting were so complimentary and appreciative I had tried out their style of dress. The temperature in Puttur was hovering around 90 degrees and very humid. The saree is not the coolest outfit choice, but it certainly hides any and all perspiration well.

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With the team post meeting

There is one caveat. The sarees are often died in vibrant colors. My team members quickly noticed I was turning the same hot pink as my outfit. Shanthi laughed when I showed her, and then recalled the same thing happened to her when she last wore the saree years ago.

Despite scrubbing and a good dousing in hand sanitizer, both my armpits, my stomach, chest and parts of my legs remain bright pink. India really is rubbing off on me.

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