• Pallavi Rao

Plain Vanilla

Day13 of #21days21sarees

Uff…my fascination for handloom sarees…here is a ravishing Gadwal!

No Gadwal sarees are not from Uttarakhand. This handcrafted woven saree is of Jogulamba Gadwal district, Telangana. It is characterised by a blend or combination of cotton weave fabric in body with contrasting borders with gold zari weave designs over it instead of a plain panel of zari. The aanchal is grand to say the least. It is known to be a Puja or prayer saree. I gifted it to my mother for a family wedding, but have worn it more often than her.

Lockdown Saree Stories Day13

Rachna is 19 years old. Comes from a very poor family.

Tall, clear eyes with Rapunzel’s hair. A sharp kid, she lives in the urban Hauz Khas Village.

She was hired at the saree shop as a store assistant despite the disadvantage of not being proficient in English. Her skills however, included supreme confidence, a keen sense of learning and an ever-smiling face.

With this job, she is now the second earning member of a family of five. Her mother works as a menial in the neighbourhood households. With a good for nothing father, the burden of all expenses is now shared by the two.

We needed to groom her as per the brand requirement of handloom sarees and everything Indian. That meant asking her to trim her chipped red painted and pointed Dracula nails and giving shape to her mane amongst other things. While she readily agreed to have shorter and neater nails like Preeti Mam, she did not let us decide on the length and style of her hair.

Looks mattered. First impressions counted. Especially when in the retail business. She was ready to change.

Next, came her orientation. She impressed all by understanding, learning and ever so quickly interacting with potential customers telling them about the sarees and the typical weaves on display. She even manages to coax them to make a purchase at times. It comes to her effortlessly. Within weeks, she was comfortable amongst the Chanderi, Pochampally, Ajrakh, Kalamkari, Paithinis, Tangaliyas and all. A fast learner.

The store was in good hands.

The only place she seemed to lack confidence at times was her not being good with English. I assured her; it did not matter. Be it a tourist or a local, there was no shame in speaking mainly in Hindi. There was no stopping post that. The welcome Hello changed to a Namaste. And Thank you changed to Dhanyavad. It only added to the brand of Indian Artizans.

Food time is fun time. Carrying her lunch in the plastic tiffin box, we often exchange and share lunch. Evenings are fun. Ordering a snack from swiggy or the moongdal pakodas from the local bhaiya to the occasional masaledaar shakarkandi.

We always order extra, which we then ask her to take home for her younger siblings. On other days, she eats a little less to take a rare treat like a pizza home. Her twinkling eyes are a delight!

There was this government led conference-cum-exhibition for handloom sarees that we were to attend and receive an award for our work with the weavers and artisans clusters. We were enthralled. It was an important day for us.

Rachna, was super excited. Not as much for the award but the fact that it was at a 5-star hotel. She was thrilled and took extra efforts to wear a saree that day.

The day came. While we attended the function, she and Ceebie manned the stall. It was lunch time. We asked her to eat first while we took over for a while.

She was unsure of how much to serve herself. We told her it was ‘unlimited’. “Jitna khana hai, jo khana hai, jitni baar parosna hai, parose le, kha le.” Her eyebrows went up and eyes brimmed with joy.

She was to finish in 10 min. She took for ever. And ever.

She kept coming back though with her plate.

Mam ye kya hai? Lasange. Wo kya hota hai? Umm, Pasta. Mam…chicken bhi hai aur Mam mutton bhi!!!! Haan Rachna, aur maach bhi hai...ja achcha se kha. Mam, mera pet bhar gaya lekin ye bahut achcha hai, she said pointing to the cold potato salad. To kha na, mast hokar kha.

She disappeared for the next 10 minutes only to return with vanilla ice-cream on her plate. I rolled my eyes.

Rachna, rabdi aur jalebi hai, wo kha na. Chocolate mousse hai... she interrupted and said : Mam…ice-cream hai! I nodded. This fascination for ice-cream I tell you. She was still a kid. Sigh. Mam…(unable to control her happiness) ice-cream! I said, aur le le. Mam main teesri baar le rahi hun. Ice-cream mam!.

I wondered how could anything be rated above a rabdi. I mean really!

She mumbled under her breath, Mam… ghar pe sabko batungi, dono ko chhidaungi… maine aaj ice-cream khayi and went off to get yet another scoop of the plain boring vanilla ice-cream.

Also read: The Heels

I now felt this to be a bit of an over-acting, if you know what I mean. Matlab ho gaya. Kha liya? Khush ho gaye? Itna bhi kya?

When she returned with one more serving of the drabbest of deserts is when I heard her correctly.

“Mam… ghar pe sabko batungi, dono ko chhidaungi… maine aaj ZINDAGI mein PEHLI baar ice-cream khayi.

Rachna is 19 years old.

Till tomorrow. Stay safe. Stay home.

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