By Divya Unny May. 15, 2019
I grew up watching dilwales chasing dulhaniyas, sindoors and saat pheras, and no matter how progressive I chose to be in my real life, when it came to being a bride, I was as clichéd as a Yashraj film. All I wanted was the perfect red saree.
hen I decided to get married at 34, it was a very conscious, calculated decision. I am a financially independent Mumbai girl with no signs of wanting to lean on anyone – man or woman, father or husband – for my stability. But my partner of five years and I share similar goals, both personal and professional, and marriage seemed like the most natural next step.
When he asked me to stick around for life on the 81st floor of the Eiffel tower last year, I promised myself that it would be the only clichéd moment of our impending shaadi. But little did I know that my “simple” wedding plans would burst open years of conditioning centred around having the “perfect” day that was quietly sealed away in my consciousness. With 50 days to go for the big day, I was already sapped out of every ounce of happiness and energy a new bride is supposed to feel – primarily due to the never-ending quest of nailing my bridal couture to the T.
The goal was a pure silk Kanjeevaram or a Banarasi saree that would “call out” to me in a saree shop with more than 50,000 pieces, mind you. I am a Kerala girl getting hitched to a Bengali boy – both colourful and rich traditions – and there’s no way I can look anything less than perfect on my wedding day, I thought to myself. Look, the irony of readily giving into the pressure of imitating the big-eyed, not-a-hair-out-of-place bride with a designer-friendly wardrobe that Hindi cinema has time and again fed me, didn’t escape me. I grew up watching dilwales chasing dulhaniyas, sindoors and saat-pheras, and no matter how progressive I chose to be in real life, when it came to being a bride, I was as clichéd as a Yashraj film.
Before I knew it, an image of a woman draped in the perfect shade of red – a mix of vermillion and ruby – and gold constantly floated before my eyes. I started sleeping and waking up with only her on my mind, to a point where I felt like she was following me. Frantically, I chased my dream saree, first online, and then in person. My pockets were too small for a Sabyasachi, but I secretly stashed countless images of Deepika Padukone’s South Indian bridal look on my phone. I would go over them every night before I hit the sack, observing every detail of her look, from the kundan earrings to the soft silk ghoonghat. “You could never look like her,” I heard my alter ego speak.
As an actor, I already deal with unachievable beauty standards girls in my shoes are expected to follow. Although, in the past five years, I have been happy with the way I looked as long as I was healthy. But now, I judged myself in the mirror every day. Suddenly, I couldn’t look past the grey strands, the bulky arms, the almost-double chin, the patchy skin and brittle nails. I joined the gym, started fasting, drank tasteless green vegetable concoctions… and even gave up idlis. For what you ask? For two hours of my life, two hundred people, and a thousand expectations from the bride on one single day.
My partner on the other hand was nonchalant about his wardrobe. “All I have to do is pick up a kurta and a mundu (dhoti). I’ll do it a few days before the wedding,” he casually told me one evening.
My modest retired banker father was ready to break his 15-year-old fixed deposit to fulfil my bridal ambitions. From Mumbai’s Mahalaxmi to Matunga, I brought sales people from every saree store down to their knees trying to convince me that they had “the one”. Funnily enough, by the time I reached the fifth store, the sober cotton sarees were the only ones I was falling in love with. In a few days, I started to dread the idea of walking into yet another store. Fear took over every bit of happiness I ever felt about tying the knot with my best friend. I vividly remember breaking down in front of a life-size mirror in a store one afternoon as they draped a gorgeous golden silk saree on me. It was the fiftieth one I was trying, and I was too overwhelmed, unable to see the beauty in me or in the sarees anymore. Do I even want to be a bride if it’s this stressful?
My partner on the other hand was nonchalant about his wardrobe. “All I have to do is pick up a kurta and a mundu (dhoti). I’ll do it a few days before the wedding,” he casually told me one evening. He wasn’t stressed, distracted or going crazy like me. At the face of it, it might seem like an uneventful exchange, but for me, that was my very own eureka moment. It dawned on me the extent to which girls internalise the expectations of looking perfect on their wedding day. Like countless brides before me, I was trying to toe the line, becoming an image of a bride that another person had created, instead of creating my own. It made me wonder whether the opulence of multi-billion dollar weddings splashed all across my social media timelines made me delusional about the purpose behind mine. I mean, marriage itself might be getting out of fashion, but a designer lehenga is a life goal these days. But is the day of the wedding really as life-altering in a girl’s life as it is made out to be?
So that evening, I decided to take a break from trousseau shopping and flew to Chennai for work. Incidentally, just two hours before my flight back home, I happened to stumble upon a three-storeyed building named Tulsi Silks. I walked in casually, without conditions or expectations for the first time in weeks. As a salesgirl helped me drape one of the sarees, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror: Confident, happy, peaceful. There was the girl I was chasing for all these weeks. And in less than 30 minutes, I had found “the one”: A red silk saree that was picked out by me on a work trip. It was as simple as that. It came to me when my mind wasn’t held prisoner by anxiety or high expectations. It came to me when I stopped thinking about other people.
There’s barely 30 days left to the wedding now. I still go to the gym, but idlis are back in my life. At the moment, I’m thinking of teaming up the red silk sari with a white shirt and sneakers or maybe I’ll turn it into a skirt and a blouse. Who knows? As long as I feel like myself, I’m pretty sure nothing else matters. Not even the latest Sabyasachi saree.