As I stand in front of my rack you know clothes' rack, I think of that student M from so long ago and that conversation. Thoughts of students always brings a smile I tell you no matter what humongous task especially a mundane humongous one, one is facing, like the stand and the sarees to be sorted. It was still the the first bell. I begin with “M, what’s up? Why are you not excited to start your day?” He answers with a “Oh! I have had a long day already, what with my chores for the morning and all!” To me, he looks like he has come to school straight from bed. Nevertheless, to perk him up, I start with “why don’t you go wash your face for starters” and follow up with a “You know M, how you dress is important to how you feel. It also helps make a better impression”, thinking about the age old “Vastram Purushalakshanam”! I get the needed reaction. Without even getting up from his seat, he has perked up. He sees an opportunity to argue and begins to offer his opinion on how unfair it is to judge people especially by what they wear and not by who they are and what not. Well, at least it got our class started on a good note – perked up students wanting to contribute to an argument. As I continue to take each saree off the hanger, I am also reminded of another person, Mrs.P. I had met her right after I landed on this US soil. Being the courteous elderly, the couple had decided to take us under their wings wanting to groom us for life ahead in these United States. To be fair to me, they seemed elderly back then, though they were still in their mid-forties. After all, we were a young newly married couple with a carefree attitude and just two suitcases with hopes and dreams – wanting to explore in the few months we may stay here. Mrs.P became a constant presence in our life and I recall a day when she took me upstairs to her spare bedroom, which she had converted into a prayer room as well as her closet space for her Indian attire! The Indian room to which not many were privy to! She opens the almirah vey proudly and showcases her sarees with stories that I vaguely paid attention to, all the while wondering in my mind as to what she would do with all those sarees and Indian clothes! Fast forward, here I am standing in my bedroom, looking at my collection, wondering as to what I would do with all these sarees, just like I had wondered looking at Mrs.P's sarees back then. As I got to know her better, my relationship with her changed and I began to call her my MIL in America! With no MIL of my own in my life, perhaps she had decided I needed help. As I continued to observe her and interact with her, I realized that she had gone through quite a bit in life and that unfortunately had only made her bitter. I had made a vow to myself then that I will do my best to help life shape me into a better person. Life’s journey after all is not just about who we travel with and what experiences we have but what happens to us as well at the end of that journey. When we look back, we should be able to smile and say, it was all worth it. I have digressed so much, as always! As I look at my sarees and the new wardrobe I have put together to hold them, all I can do is tear up. To be honest all the sarees were tucked away in some corner so much so that even if I wanted to use them, it was a process. You know how our closets are – western clothes, winter western clothes, summer western clothes, Indian chudidars, and then those sarees – most of them heavy and kanjeevaram or mysore silk. I am fortunate to wear some to work every now and then but then the seasons being what they are, inside is where the sarees stay! Thanks to a friend who recently roped me to join a saree club, they have all come out and I have been wearing them diligently much to that look on DH’s faces that said “When did you buy all this? Where were they?”. The gentleman that he is, he has not asked me those questions out loud though. Like most of you, 80% of that closet space is mine, Nah make it 90% So the questions have remained, and this closet seems like another akshya patre - an uninterrupted supply of clothing! The sarees when seen together like that do seem like a lot. I mean a lot. As I speak with my closest friend while arranging them sarees neatly, to her teasing that she needs to fill my almirah for what I have is nothing compared to what she has, to her promise that she will keep aside any new style that comes out, I realize that every saree has a story. This friend of mine bless her heart, she never gifts just a saree - it is the complete package always. Most of my sarees are either gifts or are simply inherited. I do not recall ever stepping into a saree shop by myself wanting to buy for myself, even when I had the fortune of stepping into a saree shop to buy for others. Those saree shops overwhelm me I tell you. You must have a knack to find your way to match your style or a knack for making whatever you find, your style. I realize though that every saree I put away, brings a story, a smile, a tear as I fondly run my hand through the saree, thinking of my mom, MIL, sister, grandma or a friend. Simply put, these sarees envelope me with love and bring a style of their own - literally and figuratively As is wont with the universe, that evening, celebrating a cousins 30the wedding anniversary, as we go through the pictures from that time, I notice all my elders and their attires. My grandmothers in their simple cotton sarees, other aunts in the same silk saree again – the ones we had come to associate with each one of them. The difference was their commanding presence in these functions, not their sarees or make up. Looking at my inherited collection now, I realize that is what I miss the most – their presence! I realize that is why they have become so important to me. I also realize that the whole walk-in closet with all those seasonal clothes is like those friends – friends for a reason or a season but my sarees, they are for a lifetime! I realize I finally understand the pride and happiness felt by Mrs.P when she showed me her collection. She must have also come as a young bride to the same country especially when Indians were a rare breed, and everything was so different! I make another vow – to use most of these lovely sarees when weather permits or even better once the weather gets better! After all, workplace delights in my ethnic wear and as for me, I glow in their compliments. Even after all these years there, I still have admirers when I wear a saree. I make also a another vow - if possible, not to be caught in a pant suit, not that there is anything wrong with pant suits. But why try to fit in when I feel complete and empowered in my lovely sarees!