Mood & ReStyles II photography by Amrita Haldipur
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  • Revastra

Thathamma, I want long hair!

“Tathamma, naaku podugu juttu kavali!” (grandma, I want long hair) — Little Miss B. “Na chera batta tesukura!” (Get my sari fabric) — Thimmaraju Velpuri Viralakshmi

In the early 80s, Amma (my mother), sister and I would visit Tathamma (great-grandmother) in Jeypore (South Odisha, East India). She used to live in an old, clay-tiled and stone-stepped cottage. This podgy, gentle woman of 70 wore aged South cotton, silk or cotton-silk saris (now I know they were simple Pochampally, Narayanpet, Uppada, Venkatagiri, Gadwal, Mangalgiri, or Dharmavaram).


I have memories of soft lines, shapes and angles on her saris (my fascination for fabric and paper folding probably is an upshot of this). They contained subtle smells — oil, turmeric, curry leaves, dry chillies, lentils and coconut. She used to sit on the floor and toil over a rotund grinding stone to make lentil-rice batter for our idlis or other scrumptious dishes, which she would later cook on a small stove in a quaint kitchen. Invariably her sari end worked as a folded kitchen towel.


Some days, in the verandah, she pounded rice to make a coarse powder for ‘muggulu’ (rangoli in Telugu). “We must feed the ants and birds. Vedas say we have to feed 1,000 beings a day! Otherwise, they will enter our house and trouble us,” she used to say while deftly making the floor designs. Later, perched on the base of the wooden door frame, I watched black ants rapidly crawl or sparrows swoop hastily down to feast on this white powder. I remember her dry, wrinkled feet peeping out from under her crumpled pleats that she carefully tucked (to prevent them from spoiling the design).


During hot afternoons we would nap on a four-post, wooden bed with a rickety old table fan cooling us. It would whir noisily and make her sari flutter. I would visualise her moving drape as a mountain or a valley. And tuck my mini paper flowers or boats into them. Sometimes I would knot the corners of her front decorative end (pallu) to make a natural ‘swing’ for my doll. She would smile and help me gently rock “my baby.”


On a few weekends, she would playful rip and braid an old 'Cherra Faawllu’ (sari fall) into a ‘plait’. It satiated my greed for long hair. A bunch of white ‘Malli Puvullu’ (jasmine flowers) would get tucked into my pigtail with it. Other times old she would braid sari scrap. Sometimes I would demand two plaits—one on either side of the head.


On a few weekends, she would playful rip and braid an old 'Cherra Faawllu’ (sari fall) into a ‘plait’. It satiated my greed for long hair. A bunch of white ‘Malli Puvullu’ (jasmine flowers) would get tucked into my pigtail with it. Other times old she would braid sari scrap. Sometimes I would demand two plaits—one on either side of the head.


Three-and-a-half decades later, I decided to revive this nostalgia that spread across geographies. It was driven by women in our gigantic families of Thimmaraju, Velpuri, Bhattiprolu and Pingali women (Vijayawada and Rajamundry). Because this connection of souls (from four generations) over saris stayed with me. Soon, I took stock of my used, unused and underused saris. Applied my own sari strategy to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle them. I repurposed a few into sets of free-flowing clothes by designing to minimize waste. About two-three styles emerged from each 5.5 meters of fabric. These became my ReStories stemming out of my experience and research. Soon, Revastra came to life.


The 'fall' plait (Model: Little Ahana)

Food for thought and ants!

Revastra takes shape

‘Re’ = English prefix. Again or for a second time. ‘Vastra’ = Sanskrit word. Piece of cloth/garment.

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