24 April 2014

Spring Break India: Saree Shopping And Other Fun Things . . .

I hadn't had the chance to poke around my little AirBNB joint yet because when I arrived in Delhi, it was dark out. And when I left for Jaipur and arrived home from Jaipur, it was dark out . . . 

Finally a morning where I could sleep in and check out my space! Isn't it marvellous??

Look!! I can see Humayun's tomb from my doorway! It's the tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun, commissioned by his first wife Bega Begum and built by a Persian architect. It's one of the first garden-based tomb's in India and is made almost entirely out of red sandstone. And it's right there! I can just make out the tip of it . . . 

And even though I was staying in the roof apartment, there was still one more roof to climb up to . . . The one above my bedroom. And that's where I found the most glorious blue wall in the whole of India. I took the above picture staring directly into the sunlight, so it was a struggle to keep my eyes open. But just look at that blue!

I just loved this little space so much! I sat on the black rocking couch under the bamboo cover almost every morning with my laptop. Every evening it sprinkled down rain and was a cool 68 degrees, while during the day it was about 90 degrees of dry heat. The weather was just about as amazing as it could get!

Looking down three floors to the gated entry, above. And looking up three floors to my little space, below.

After geeking out over all of the plants at my little apartment, Gajendar picked me up at 9:30am. It was time to go saree hunting with my friend, Himanshu

You might remember him as my cohort for when I got my nose pierced in Delhi, back in December. On this day, our goal was to find me two sarees for the wedding. One for the night of sangeet and one for the marriage blessing.

He fixed me a lovely breakfast and then wrapped me up in a saree for shopping. I didn't realize upon my arrival that I would be wearing a saree shopping, but I did. He said it would be good practice for me to walk around in one. I absolutely loved it . . . At first I thought I would get a lot of stares, because I felt like I looked like an uncomfortable Westerner. But once I relaxed a bit, I noticed that no one was looking at me. Everyone wears sarees in India. Everyone.

The first place we went to was Nature Bazaar. This is a cool little open-air market that changes up it's shows every season. I visited this market with my friend Vicki during my second weekend in India, back in December. But this time, it was devoted to summer weaves: lots and lots of sarees and fabric. Heaven, people!

I quite enjoyed looking at all of the surface decoration on the sarees, trying to figure out the process. The image above is made by bundling tiny bits of fabric with thread (below). Isn't it fab? It comes out all crinkly and has to be washed out or ironed.

This was my absolute favorite saree, the one above. It was block printed . . . And pink and grey and gold! But just as I was about to buy it, we noticed some sun damage right across the center of it. We wrapped it on me a couple of times to see if it would show, and it did. So I didn't get it. Boo. Looking at these pictures now makes me wish I had purchased it anyhow . . . Sad face clown.

Just look at all of these summer sarees!

I ended up purchasing the two sarees that I wore to the aforementioned events from Nalli's. This place had like 3 floors of sarees, all different kinds. (Images of my purchases forthcoming in future posts.) 

But it was kind of a bigger deal than I thought. I originally thought that I could purchase any fabric anywhere; and as long as it was long enough to wrap around me, it was good enough to be a saree. 

Um, no.

First you pick your saree. Then you have to pick out fabrics to have your tops and petticoats made. People who know me well, know that I hate shopping more than anything else in the world. But this was--thankfully--a bit different. It was like sifting through fabric bins or something. And items were being hand-tailored for me. It was weird and fancy and fabulous. I loved it. In fact, I had come to believe by the end of the evening that I could wear sarees every day of my life for the rest of my life. I was sure of it.

Where I had my petticoats and tops made was in a completely different area from where I bought the sarees. My petticoats and tops were made in an area of town called Connaught Place. The tailor was there, too. Check him out below, sketching out my tops . . . 

After all of the shopping and picking out and measuring and figuring, Himanshu took me out to a lovely dinner in Hauz Khas Village. This is also one of the places I visited back in December, with my friend Vicki. It was getting rather late, so we finished dinner with some coffee and then parted ways. 

One thing I should quickly mention before moving on is that Himanshu is organizing this amazing festival that happens next weekend in Delhi . . . It's The Saree Festival. How amazing is that? Can you imagine? I can . . . I think it sounds pretty incredible! 

So if you happen to be in Delhi next weekend, make sure to check it out . . . 

The next day I lazed about in the morning and Gajendar picked me up around noon. We went to the Lodhi Gardens and spent time just walking around looking at old things and flowers. I found it fascinating that in the middle of the craziness that is Delhi: the traffic, the dust, the noise . . . There is this quiet, contemplative space. It was beautiful.

Oh and remember that time when the Westerner stood on a billion year old tomb so that she could get a better picture of another building that was a bit further away, and then got yelled at in Hindi by the guard? 

Yep, that happened . . . Guilty. (She types shamefully.)

After that, Gajendar and I went for some eats at a local joint where I was definitely not surrounded by tourists. It was awesome. The food was so, so good . . . But it also made me sick, sick, sick. It made both me and Gajendar sick. (Only today, 8 days later and after visiting a doctor, am I feeling relatively better.) But man, it was good food. Totally worth it!!

I got back to my neck of the woods relatively early, around 6pm. I wanted to rest up before the big events began the next day. So we took a quick drive through Defence Colony and checked out a local art bookstore and reading room. This tiny store had an incredible collection. When I return to Delhi (in December: shhhhhh), I'm taking a small fortune with me to buy art books!

Next up? The big ol' wedding: three days are not nearly enough for all of the fun! Prepare yourselves, people!