Friday, December 5, 2008

Sharad's Sisters Part II

I woke up completely rested at my friend Sharad's house in Agra. His sisters Monica and Aruna were already busy in the kitchen making special dishes. Aruna offered me chai. I watched her patiently slice potatoes into thin, perfect pieces for a dish she was making. Breakfast was a variety of Indian breads, a spicy potato dish and a sweet dish with grain, raisins and milk—delicious.

"Have you worn a saree?" asked Aruna. I had not. But always wanted to. I marveled at the Indian women in their brightly colored sarees embellished with rhinestones, sequins, and all things glittery. At times I've seen women standing in the median of dusty roads in sarees. They look like they're dressed in evening gowns for a glamorous cocktail party. "Would you like to?" asked Aruna. Of course!

Minutes later she produced a beautiful lavender colored saree. I put on the choli, a fitted short-sleeve bodice worn beneath the yards of silk. It fit perfectly. I was a little horrified my less-than-toned stomach was exposed, but relieved to know that a couple meters of the six meter saree would soon hide my indulgences.

I stepped into the simple, same-colored cotton skirt that serves as both slip and recipient of the saree fabric about to be stuffed into the waist of it. Since Aruna has been married for some time, and married women are typically the wearers of sarees, she began folding the length of the fabric accordion style. With Monica's help, they tucked it into the skirt, swathed my upper torso in sparkly lavender and threw the tail of the saree over my shoulder. It fell down my back like a waterfall and stopped short of the floor. It was the perfect length.

Monica brought out her boxed engagement jewelry for me to wear. We chose a matching lavender rhinestone bindhi, the mark married women wear on their forehead. I felt like an Indian princess.

Monica told me she didn't know what to expect when she heard I was coming. "I did not know what your character would be like, your behavior, what you would think. I'm very happy you came. I don't want you to leave." I was touched by this young woman's sincerity. She gave me a set of bangles—the same ones that I noticed she was wearing in her engagement pictures. I gave her a pair of peridot and carnelian earrings that a very dear friend made. They were stunning on her.

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