Tuesday, December 08, 2009

My Dadima Wears a Sari

Title: My Dadima Wears a Sari
Author: Kashmira Sheth
Illustrator: Yoshiko Jaeggi
Publisher: Peachtree
Age Group: 4-8 years

Spending my growing-up years in India around women who took their sarees (saris) pretty seriously, I vividly remember weaving dreams of the myriad shades and textures of saris my wardrobe would be carrying when I became an adult. Later during adolescence, I recall carving out in my mind the exotic collection of saris I would be bringing back from my travels around India, all properly stacked in my suitcase. Not merely to share with family and friends, also as a way to celebrate the stories of places and people the fabrics and intricate motifs would beautifully tell. Bengal cotton, Balucharis, Banares silks, Kantha, block-printed, Chikankari, Ikat, Eri were just a few entries in the long list I had imagined. Many fond childhood memories and dreams related to saris, all tucked in my mind, like the folds and pleats of an elegantly worn sari.

Now, as an adult living in America, I confess months and sometimes, years have gone by without wearing one. Only my wedding saris hang in my wardrobe. Nowhere close to the collection I had envisioned growing up. Not having seen natural light for many years, I can almost hear my wedding saris whisper to me their longingness to be home and partake in festivals and celebrations. Sigh...

However, I must take comfort from the fact that we have a small collection of children's literature featuring colorful saris that we have been reading dearly over and over again throughout the year - on rainy days, sunny days, gusty days, snowy days... One by Sandhya Rao of Tulika Books titled, My Mother's Sari and another, by Pooja Makhijiani called, Mama's Saris. Both were a hit with my older daughter. Now, my little one enjoys reading them with me. These books offer little threads of a cultural connection for my children to experience India and her saris vicariously.

Meera's review of the Monsoon Afternoon few weeks ago rang a bell. I remembered thumbing through the pages of another book by the same author, Kashmira Sheth, titled My Dadima Wears a Sari, while volunteering at my daughter's public school library. It was only natural I would immediately place a hold for My Dadima Wears a Sari at my local library, along with Monsoon Afternoon and a few more Monsoon books to spend the rainy Thanksgiving weekend reading indoors with my daughters.

In My Dadima Wears a Sari, the story is a loving exchange between Dadima and her two grand-daughters, Rupa and Neha. Rupa asks Dadima whether she misses wearing pants or skirts or blouses for which Dadima nonchalantly replies, “I never thought about it”. She further goes on to enumerate the many special ways in which she uses her sari - from using the end of her "pallu" as a fan to keep cool on a hot day, to a pouch for carrying seashells at the beach, in the Gir jungle to hide from a storm, to tie around the knee as a bandage when her grand-daughter has a fall. Next, Rupa thinks of creative ways to use the sari and that includes playing hide-n-seek with her sister, to tieing a knot to gently remind her grandmother to give her a hug and such. Dadima later shares with them stories about all her saris in the wardrobe. And the girls excitedly pick one sari each to wear.

The watercolor paintings are soft and elegant. They tie in with the text capturing the warmth of the story aptly. Kashmira's writing shimmers all through, and she has a way to weave her words evocatively. She has beautifully wrapped inter-generational love through her debut work. The book is a playful, yet gentle way to present traditions and India's rich sari heritage. My Dadima Wears a Sari is a precious find. Hope I can purchase the book for a permanent place in my children's book shelf.


SoulSpace said...

something abt grandmothers and sarees strike a chord...
Mine wore 9 yards, and I wld watch in fascination every time she wld allow me to see her draping it...usually catch the last bit only:))

its interesting that the illustrator is Japanese(?), so how do the images gel?.

sathish said...

Praba, very interesting. our little one is fascinated with sarees as well.

always wonder why the word 'saree' is spelt sari nowadays? nothing wrong in it though. usually the spelling change would involve some interesting story - that is what I am fascinated about it.

Choxbox said...

Awesome Praba - but I already told you right?!

Anusha said...

lovely pick! I instantly thought of Mama's saris when I saw the title. I picked it up after your review :) really nice to have so much spotlight on the eternally fashionable sari.

utbtkids said...

We are reading this book currently. Coincidence!

ranjani.sathish said...

Beautiful review Prabha ! I am a great saree fan and nothing like an elegantly worn saree..It can be a stunner !! I do wear it quite a bit here and never loose an opportunity to flaunt the collections during wedding season ;-)

Poppy said...

Sounds very very appealing !

Praba Ram said...

SS - thanks for the comment. Grandmothers and their sarees go hand in hand, dont they? with grandchildren, even better...:-)

Interesting you should point out that the illustrator is Japanese. She has captured perfectly well. And the expressions, delightful. I was also struck by her drawings in the other book too - Monsoon Afternoon... the expressions of children, dadaji streets of India etc...Very nicely done.

May be we will have her drop by and share with us her illustration experience. She lives not far from where I live. :-)http://yoshikojaeggi.com/ http://www.papertigers.org/gallery/Yoshiko_Jaeggi/index.html
Good you brought it up! :-)

Praba Ram said...

Ok - Sathish, coming to your doubt over sarees and saris...hmm..thought provoking, as always.

Here's my one cent after thinking really hard... We dont spell dhotis as dhotees, right? So, somewhere someone made the conscious change to keep it fair and balanced for both the genders! :)

Praba Ram said...

@ sathish - thanks! Nice that Shradha likes the shari(another spelling on wikipedia I just found out about!:-) Ok -
good it has the "h", much like dhoti - shari perfect harmony!) I am all for gender equality! :-))

@chox - thanks again!

@km - so did the majority kurta klad klan in your household enjoy it? Makes me wonder why no books on Papa's Dhotis. :-)

@utbt - nice. So what did you and your girls think?

@ranjani - yes, stunner - good one! Ok dont miss the chance, for my sake too please.. :-)

@poppy - thank you!

Sheela said...

sounds interesting, Praba - esp., since my 4-yr-old likes to dress up in her grandma's saree - cut and sewed to her mini size, of course...
and, interesting point Satish - I still can't bring myself to spell the word as 'sari':)

Meera Sriram said...

Oh..I can't wait to read this one! Frankly, whenever we read mama's saris at home, it is me who is mentally transported to the days when amma beckoned me to adjust the pleats at the bottom of her neatly starched cotton saris that she wore to work every day..sigh.!
P, as always, a book perfect for enjoying and sharing with kids being raised outside of India.

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