We shoved our way down crowded back alleys as men lugged crates larger than themselves on their shoulders. Everywhere we turned, there was something bright and glittery to see: the sari or saree, depending on where you are.
A brief walk from Chandni Chowk Station, with large signs to guide our way, the market was filled with the brightly colored garments, along with beautiful lehengas. We started walking the main road before making our way further in.
“Well,” I said as we made our back to the main road, “I guess we’ll need to go in somewhere.”
We passed by more storefronts with mannequins made up in dazzling, bejeweled saris. Some of these were the same ones we went past twice.
Finally we came to a store, took a deep breath and opened the door as we slipped off our shoes.
The faces of a family picking out a bridal gown from their positions on the plushly matted floor stared up at us. Everything in me wanted to turn back out.
“We’re looking for saris,” I told a man who came to ask what he could do for us, “for a wedding.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place,” he said as he ushered us to the back of the narrow room, tip-toeing past the family, with shelves stacked high with saris. He had us sit down, one on the mat, one on a small wooden stool. “Have you ever worn a sari?”
My friend shook her head no, and I nodded vaguely—three years ago, I remembered, being in a friends house being draped in the thick, purple and green sari over my blouse and pants—but did that really count?
“Well, up up,” he said.
I motioned for my friend to follow his instructions and another man came forward with a rope to tie the sari onto her waist. He draped it with expert fashion, pulling it through his hands to make folds once, twice, three times, more times than I could count.
“This is an easy sari,” he said. “The skirt is already draped, so the only thing she’d have to worry about is the piece that goes over the shoulder.”
It was true—a brooch rested on the waist that gathered the fabric into pre-folds.
“It would be easy for me to put on myself back home,” my friend said as she admired herself in a mirror.
I snapped photos and eyed a pile of lehengas in a corner.
The man followed my gaze and I asked, “Could I wear a lehenga to a wedding?”