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An Idiot's Guide To The World Of Saris

There are two eras in an Indian man's life—Before Saris (BS) and After Nalli (AN).

09/05/2017 9:03 AM IST | Updated 09/05/2017 1:13 PM IST
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Not too long ago, for the first time, and rather in late in life, I visited a showroom to buy a sari (not for myself, for someone else, just to be clear). It was an education and inspired this brief (and completely unhelpful) primer which I have titled "The Idiot's Guide to the World of Saris."

There are two distinct eras in an Indian man's life. Just like BC and AD, there is BS and AN—which stand for Before Saris and After Nalli.

For those of you who actually have no idea what "Nalli" is, it is the ultimate sari showroom. It is the mecca of sari showrooms. Every two-bit sari shop ("Chopra Sari Centre", "Dhingra Sari Shop", "Sharma Saris") dreams of one day being a Nalli showroom. (It's a माँ, मैं भी एक दिन बड़ा होके नल्ली बनूंगा " type of thing.)

Jamdanis were so named because they were probably worn proudly by the great Bengali artist Jamdani Roy. I think. Maybe.

I too was once sari–ignorant. Then I visited a Nalli showroom to buy a sari. Now I know every single thing there is to know about saris, which I am happy to teach you. Read carefully and you will learn a lot.

There are almost as many different kinds of saris as there are women in India. But for the sake of convenience and ease, I have broken down the world of saris into the following categories.

Kanjeevarams are the ultimate in saris. They are sort of like the Alphonso mango of saris. I mean, just close your eyes and slowly say to yourself "Kanjeevaram". What is the image that comes in front of your eyes? A gold-embroidered dazzling, expensive thing costing not less than ₹25,000, right? Kanjeevarams come from the town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. It is a sari town. It is known for its saris. It is named after its saris. Everyone there wears expensive saris, including the fishermen and temple priests.

Then there are Pochampallis. Pochampallis comes from... um... Pocham of course. And just like there are Nallis, there are Pallis. Hence, Pochampallis.

OK, moving right along.

Bandhani silks are easy to recognise—they are sort of like tie-and-dye saris. They look like someone has twisted them around. In fact, if you don't want to look like a complete idiot in a Nalli store, point nonchalantly to the saris that look twisted around and say, "Bandhani dikhaiye please..."

Then there's Silk crepe saris. They are beautiful—soft and crepe-y they are.

Then there's Murshidabad saris. They are, of course, from Murshidabad. (Then where? Aurangabad? Use your brain, no?)

Then from the land of West Bengal there are the Tangail saris and the Jamdani saris. Jamdanis were so named because they were probably worn proudly by the great Bengali artist Jamdani Roy. I think. Maybe.

Then there are Katki saris from Cuttack and there are Bomkai Saris made famous by the Bengali detective Byomkesh Bakshi. HE didn't wear them, thank God, but one of the women he was in love with probably did.

Then there are Sanganeri saris from Sanganer, just like there are Bikaneri sweets from Bikaner. D-uh.

Then there are Sanganeri saris from Sanganer, just like there are Bikaneri sweets from Bikaner. D-uh.

We also have Patola saris. (Don't ask.)

One thing that is very important to remember is that all saris need pekoes, falls and blouses. But don't worry your head about all that. Leave that to the wearers, that's their problem. If you've actually managed to successfully buy a sari, you are well ahead of the rest of your dim-witted race.

And finally we come to Kaantha saris. I'm not exactly sure where these are from but I believe the origin of this type of saris comes from the question, "Kahaan thha be?" (कहाँ था, बे?) Hence Kaantha.

And the answer to that, of course, is "Sari khareed rahaa thha, huzoor..."

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