Today we want to introduce Shruti Chandra of A Sari Story (when you receive our Diwali Love + Light Box, you’ll see how she is the talented designer of the beautiful rangoli cards and logo). We love following her on Instagram because of how she’s created a space to pay tribute to her mother’s favorite garment, the sari, after losing her to cancer in 2015.
It’s now the middle of October’s breast cancer awareness month and like Shruti, many families we know have stories of loved ones affected by cancer. It’s why we decided to launch a campaign of awareness to honor these women. For one week, we will feature a different story on our blog from family members affected by cancer or from many survivors themselves. We also have featured items by amazing friends of the Chai Mommas whose proceeds will go to Mommy and Me Cancer Foundation (check out the bottom of this post for more information).
We are so grateful that Shruti has shared these heartfelt words with us here. We love every thread of what she is doing as a South Asian woman and first generation daughter in America. For more on her beautiful tribute to her mother, check out @asaristory on Instagram.
My fondest memories of trips to India, were scenes of sari shops with my mother and family. We spent our time feeling and draping textiles upon textiles. I, with them, became an expert in the names, weaves and touch of each sari. I loved that they all had names and unique characteristics. There were Tepchi embroidered organza and light Kota weaves for the summer. Beautiful rich heavy Kanjivaram silks with Zari, metallic thread borders and the classic Banarasi “resham” or silk patterned weaves.
As soon as I was old enough or really tall enough to wear a sari at 14, I was obsessed just as my mother before me. I learned the ‘nivi’ drape from her. Where to tie a petticoat, how to perfect pleats, to approximate the length of a palla. She firmly held that there was “a right way to tie a sari”.
Her story is a bit different from most of the Desi immigrant women, in that she came to the U.S. unmarried in the early 70’s. It wasn’t common for a young girl who already had a bachelor’s and master’s to be allowed to pursue further education, especially in another country. Her journey here alone led to her convictions on the “right” way to preserve her culture. Although I don’t see things as black and white, I deeply value the connection to my native language and clothing as she did.
When she passed from cancer, suddenly our family was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff she left behind. There was one thing I knew I wanted to do with all the saris. I knew there was a way I wanted to celebrate the saris she had collected over a lifetime of trips to India, gifts from her family and even some that I designed for her. Each of those saris has a story, whether it be about its craftsmanship or the region it was made in. Or the story of how it ended up in my mother’s closet. I’m trying to tell these stories one day at a time as I wear her collection or have friends and family do the same.
So far I’ve told the story of one hundred of my mother’s saris, and likely have a few 100 more to tell. I may not wear them as she did, but I love them justas much. As I wear the saris, I have been handing some of them over to friends and family to have a piece of the story my mother left behind. And some I want to re-purpose and preserve for the future.
Side note – I wore my mom’s wedding sari for my own wedding. It’s contrary to most Desi traditions to wear a “used” garment for your wedding. But in the western tradition, family heirlooms are celebrated. My mom and I, we picked and chose the traditions that made sense to us and my mother was honored that I wanted to wear her sari. As was I.
Words by Shruti Chandra
Mommy and Me Cancer Foundation is a trusted charitable organization whose mission is to support mothers with cancer who raise minor children so no family fights alone. More info and ways to donate here. We are honored to feature these beautiful collaborations to aid Mommy and Me Cancer Foundation help mommas who need it.
The Super Mom Mug by Paper Samosa (@paper.samosa). Click here to purchase
The Mommy and Me Robe Set by Pajama Sutra (@pajamasutra). Click here to purchase
The Pink Paisley Print by Brush and Easel (@thebrushandeasel). Click here to purchase