It was the year 2011. April was around the corner. My parents had become edgy and anxious as my sister’s wedding loomed closer than ever. We had driven to Chennai from Bangalore for our one-day pattu-sari shopping trip.
On the way to T.Nagar, the silk saree hub in Chennai, my mother suddenly remembered that we had to buy clothes for men as well. My face fell at the thought of selecting tens of lifeless, boring, white pieces of cloth- veshtys.
You can’t picture a veshty on a man and think if it would suit him or not like you can with a saree. For instance, my atthei is very fair and a bright pink would suit her perfectly. The would-be mother-in-law is rather plump, so a dark colour would be apt. My dad on the other hand, is skinny and has long curly hair. My mama, he’s bald and overweight. But they’ll both wear similar veshtys- plain white ones, with golden or red border. They’re all the same.
Crest fallen, I entered the store looking into my phone. When I finally tore my eyes away, I was shocked at what I saw. Bales and bales of the most colourful clothes hung on all sides of the room- cotton, silk, tussar, crape, nylon and what not. Random uncles and aunties in the store stood feeling rolls of cloth, considering different colours, making calls and asking what kind of a veshty was required for the groom, what kind of a veshty must be given to the vaadhyar as dakshina, bargaining with the shopkeeper – “nyaayuma sollungo saar. Moon aiiyira rhomba jaasthi.”
An old man was walking around with his own veshty folded up, looking very purposeful. His torso was hidden behind a pile of pink, purple and yellow shiny silk veshtys that he dumped on the billing counter and shouted out something incomprehensible.
Another man with a big moustache stood tall with his arms folded, talking to his malli-poo clad wife. He wore a beige veshty, crisp and smooth until his feet. It emanated a sense of dignity. They had a third person with them- an aging man, who sported a dark purple cotton veshty tied up kachche style. He looked like he’d been wearing veshtys for years. A veshty veteran.
A young man, perhaps a to-be groom, stood looking confused and harassed at the amount he would be shelling out of his pocket for a veshty he wouldn’t bother looking at after his wedding day. He held expensive-looking blue and purple veshtys with rich zhari borders around him. I was fascinated with the variety of borders and designs on the veshtys. This store would put any saree shop to shame.
I looked outside the shop and a poor man in a worn out off-white veshty stood selling postcards. My dad himself wore a semi-veshty to sleep every night. His was all colourful and had designs on it. It was more of a lungi than a veshty. But then again, they’re variables of the same species.
Suddenly, a whole new world seemed to open up before me, a world that I never knew existed. If sarees can tell stories, so can veshtys. Be it the colour, the way someone ties it or carries it. Veshtys have a whole language of their own. The wonders 4 yards of cloth can do!