When I received the commission to write and perform an original poem for the 2015 Commonwealth Day Observance in London – in the presence of the British royal family and an audience of 2000 people – the first question my excited friends asked (okay, second question, after “Will you meet Kate Middleton?!”) was – what will you wear?
Fittingly, my personal fashion motto borrows from the famous British wartime phrase, “Keep Calm and Carry On”. In case of romance, revenge or reckonings of all kinds – I “Keep Calm and Sari On”. Whether to intimidate or to seduce, to distract or to disguise, the sari is my regalia of choice. The only thing I knew when I started planning my wardrobe was that I would perform at Westminster Abbey in one. The question then was – which one?
I cannot tell you how many hours I spent browsing, online and in boutiques. There were jatang ones and jejune ones and just-for-jollies ones. Along the way, I was dismayed to find that there exists something known as the “fashion sari” (aka the sari for lazy ladies). I bought saris for other things: don’t-outdo-the-bride saris and get-even-with-the-groom saris. But where was the perfect one for my big day? As a friend said, “Any fool can get married, Sharanya, but not everyone gets to have the Queen in their audience!”
And then: the conundrum of the blouse. Tailors everywhere are notorious procrastinators. But then I chanced on Chennai’s well-kept open secret: Ranganathan Street is full of tailors who’ll give you blouses within a day or even an hour.
So I now know exactly where to go should I ever have the fun of eloping.
It’s easy to wait a long time, not settling, when you know the perfect thing will come. A few days before my flight, I found it: a soft chiffon in a deep red, with a brocade border of black and gold. The colours and ciphers of Shakti herself. And from the back of my closet, a viscose readymade long-sleeved blouse bought long ago, never worn. Paired with the sari it looked as though, well, they had been cut from the same cloth. Destiny.
How do you dress when you meet the Queen? It’s really very simple. You wear the thing that best exemplifies what a leader is meant to be: wielding power with a profound and unshakeable grace. You wear the thing that makes you feel like her equal.