Yes guys, that day will surely come. You’ll have to accompany the wife or significant other for saree shopping. How you respond to the not-so-subtle hint is going to mark you for ever.
In the good old days of the joint (or extended) family, you were safe. She may go saree shopping with her MIL, SILs, or other relatives. You could simply hand over the money and safely curl up with a book. With modern nuclear families, no such luck. You will have to man up and go saree shopping.
On our trip to Chennai last month, M & my mother both conspired on the research and planning for saree shopping. They planned such that we arrive at the airport, check-in at the hotel and go straight for saree shopping, of course. I softly recommended shopping at the end of the trip. My argument: “you won’t have to carry the sarees around for the entire trip” did not go far. “We’ll just put the sarees in the car, which will be with us the entire trip,” was the quick rebuttal. I resigned and with a big smile, went along. I survived, and you will too.
Here are Ten Survival Tips!
And pics from our shopping extravaganza at Nalli’s (Nalli Chinnasami Chetty), Chennai. Apparently THE place for sarees. Don’t fret, all cabbies know the place.
- When you hear the first hint of going saree shopping, be enthusiastic and jump to it
Wives and elephants have great memories in this regard. If you try to dodge your way out of this one, she will remind you when you want to purchase that new camera or phone. Eventually she’ll get her way, so might as well get it over with and be enthusiastic.
- Plan, Plan, Plan. For whom? How many?
Talk to her and identify who the sarees are for. What event are they for? What general color (s)? This may all change once you get to the store, but get her to start thinking. It will save a lot of time and indecision later. It also gives the impression you are really interested. In Nalli’s they have four (or five) levels of sales areas with different pricing and styles. They must have about 25 sales people on each floor. As soon as we approach a counter, the salesman would bring out and unfurl 20 – 40 sarees in a matter of seconds, blinding you in a color cacophony. Completely overwhelming. Even her head will be spinning. My mother’s vast experience in saree shopping was apparent. She quickly honed in on a style and finalized her picks within an hour. Poor M was still darting from counter to counter, and floor to floor, in a daze.
- Get a Price Estimate
Then double it, and consider yourself lucky. You didn’t think this was going to be cheap, did ya?
- Plan at least half a day.
Anything less and you are only asking for a grumpy shopper. And you will have to do it all over again. Don’t try to plan any activities after the shopping. You will be exhausted and may have a splitting headache. When it comes to saree shopping, you will be surprised at the energy reserves women have. This same girl who wilts in 10 seconds in a camera or book store, can shop sarees for days.
- Take a Pill for a Headache – before you go
The wide array of bright colors, and the faint aroma of new fabric will overwhelm your senses. And constantly having to make comparisons, and opine which saree will look good on which relative, is sure to induce a migraine. Remember to take your headache pills before you head out.
- Go on a Full Stomach.
I get cranky when hungry and it shows in my demeanour. She will interpret it to mean you are being skittish on accompanying here, or worse, spending money. So eat well before you go.
- Don’t say, “OMG! That much for a piece of cloth?”
No, my friend. That would be sacrilegious and never uttered in this temple. You will look cheap AND be ridiculed in front of all relatives – for evah! Remember the elephantine memory?And one more thing my friend, there is no such thing as an ugly saree. At least not that guys can tell. She may point to some as hideous, and you should simply nod.
- Helpful phrases:
That is a beautiful color! Look at the delicate embroidery;
Yes, it is expensive, but definitely worth it for you;
I think everyone will love this saree of yours;
Don’t worry about the money, just get what you really like!
Memorize a long list of such phrases and you will be a chum.
- Buy Lungis for yourself
Not that I wear any, but they were cheap. I splurged on two. At Nalli’s the most expensive lungi was about 125 rupees. What asymmetry. How come they don’t have Kanjeevaram silk lungis with elaborate gold jaari?
- Carry a Credit Card.
Yes, you could get a back ache carrying that cash. And bring out the card in a flash. No hesitation here. And smile widely the entire time you see the bill and sign for it. Don’t even think of that nice D-SLR you could have purchased for that money.
- Bonus. Be thankful the day is over.
At the end of the extravaganza offer to carry the heavy saree bags and remember to say: “What a great day! We should do this again!” (just kidding!)
So go ahead and smile. Go saree shopping and splurge. And after this extravaganza, we headed to Murugan Idli, another Chennai tradition.