I have been in love with the aesthetics of South Asia since I was a toddler staying with Chandi, my Sri Lankan babysitter, while my parents were at class. In particular, I fell in love with saris–with the elegance of their drape, with the beauty of the fabric. Twenty years after my last visit with Chandi, I found myself in Bangladesh training as a Peace Corps volunteer. The Peace Corps and I didn’t work out so well together, and I ended up leaving after three months. But the time I spent there was very meaningful primarily because of the people that I met.
For the majority of the time I spent in Bangladesh I lived with a family in Savar, just outside of Dhaka. I stayed with them through Ramadan, and while I didn’t participate in the fasting, I did partake of the feasts with them at sundown. I finished training and moved to my site placement right before Eid al Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. “Eid” means “feast” in Arabic.
In addition to the many more religous aspects of the holiday, Bangladeshi’s celebrate Eid by giving gifts of new clothing. My host family bought me a beautiful cotton sari in yellow with a green border and pallu (the pallu is the end of the sari tha drapes across the chest and over the shoulder.) I wore it for the festivities, and when I returned to the United States tucked it away with the rest of my saris.
Between my time in Bangladesh and the three months I later spent in Kolkata, India studying Bengali, I own a total of seven saris. I have almost no occassion to wear saris here in the USA. Some of them, like my Eid sari, had enough emotional significance to me that I wanted to be able to do something with it other than keep it in a box in my closet.
So I decided that since I can’t really wear saris to class (ok…I could but I wouldn’t) I should take the beautiful fabric and turn it into something I could wear! A good sari is approximately 6 to 9 yards of wonderful fabric–I used maybe half of it to make a little wrap around skirt and a hat for myself. I made two hats out of the Pallu–one as a custom order for ranzangel (who sent me a lovely little elephant figurine in return), and one other green hat that I listed for general sale on etsy.
It’s nice to be able to wear my Eid sari again, if in modified form. I can look down at the beautiful fabric and think of my fabulous host family in Bangladesh!