India has always been a country I’ve wanted to travel to. Long fascinated by its culture, traditions, fashion, and lifestyle, I couldn’t wait to see and experience it on my own. In particular, I had always dreamed of the moment I’d walk into a saree shop in India and purchase my very own. This may seem like a strange dream for a girl with European roots, but my connection to India was something inexplicable.
As someone who believes in past lives, I believe I have experienced the world many different times. It’s the only way I can explain the connection I feel to other places far from where I was born. My fascination with India was one that ran deep, and I wanted to immerse myself as much as I could during my seven weeks.
A few days before Diwali, I convinced two of the girls, Kamal and Giulia, to come into town with me after lunch. Kamal wasn’t going to get a saree, as she had plenty at home, but she came along to help us out. Not only did she speak Hindi, she had reached out to her aunt to get us good prices for sarees. We were grateful to have her along for fashion advice, as well, since she knew what Indian women our age would be wearing.
After finding a rickshaw up by our school in Tapovan, we headed into downtown Rishikesh, where there were more locals than travelers. Just two days before Diwali, the streets reminded me of the mall before Christmas time. The air was electric with excitement and families were purchasing new clothes, fireworks, and sweets.
With traffic and crowds, we slowly found our way to a street that had several saree shops. In India, many of the stores are dedicated to selling one specific product, which I love because it makes shopping relatively easy, especially when you know what you want. Making our way down the street, we found ourselves walking into Ganga Sarees, and the excitement seemed to set in immediately. With some help from Kamal, we explained what we were looking for, and we were told to take a seat.
Shopping for sarees is a relatively easy job, as we sat and waited for the men in charge to pull out the different fabrics. We gave them an idea of the colors and styles we liked and they pulled out fabrics in our price range. They put aside each one we liked and continued to search for other options. Sometimes it was hard to describe exactly what we wanted, but eventually we narrowed it down.
Once we decided on a few fabrics to try on, we were able to hop up on the platform. Here, they put a cord around us and began wrapping us up in the beautiful fabrics.
I had no idea how I was going to replicate their skills, but I put the thought aside and tried to watch what they were doing.
I tried on two, blue and a pink, and the people at the shop thought I was quite funny, since I was unreasonably excited about my saree. With the help of Kamal, Giulia, and a few young girls in the stop, I settled on the pink one that made me feel like a goddess. Guilia settled on a beautiful blue saree that looked similar to the one I had tried on. Then, we waited for the tailor to come and measure us for our choli, or blouse.
The following day, we returned to town after dinner to pick up our sarees. Kamal came along and we brought Rachel and her mom, Bridgette. The three of them all ended up buying salwar suits for our Diwali celebration. After gathering our purchases, we headed across the street to a shop where we got our finishing touches.
Our original intention was just to buy the petticoat for under the saree, but I decided that if I was going to dress up, I wanted to go all out. So, we also bought matching bindis and bangles. I was so amazed that the men in the store were able to measure my wrist size just by using their fingers.
Since it was the night before Diwali, the streets were full of excitement, so we joined in and bought some fireworks at a stand. Then, we headed to a crowded sweet shop and bought a few treats. Before leaving, we also tried ras malai, which quickly became my favorite Indian treat.
The whole shopping experience was beyond anything I had ever dreamed and I was able to feel fully immersed in India culture. The icing on the cake was getting all dressed up in my saree for the Diwali celebrations we had at school.
Our teachers were so excited that we had bought sarees for the occasion, which made it even more special. Luckily, we got to wear them once more for our graduation. When will I wear it again? I’m not quite sure, but I am hoping I have an event to wear it to again soon. I am also hoping to get back to India again by the end of the year, and you can guarantee my saree is coming along with me.