#SareeTwitter : The tale behind the weaves
As Saree Twitter was on fire, we were reminded of the skilful and adept saree salesmen of Chandni Chowk. As women over the world showed off their drapes, we wonder how many were enticed into buying them by our silent saree heroes.
Social media is ablaze with the vibrance of a thousand 5 yard weaves with the trend of the day - #SareeTwitter. The internet is being graced with women all over the world sharing pictures of them owning the classic Indian drape. While the online community is going back to its roots with the spree movement, a similar, yet subversive movement has been taking place in the heart of Delhi for a few decades now : The phenomena of saree salesmen.
Chandni Chowk in Delhi has innumerable saree shops, and in each shop is a fixture that customers have been dealing with for years now - the saree draping salesmen. Saree showrooms hire dexterous and swift men to solicit clients into their shops by displaying sarees in a unique way. These men quickly and deftly drape sarees on themselves, and then swiftly change the saree for another option as the client might demand. Clients nod or shake their heads as these salesmen display the choicest weaves in their inventory.
These men, who largely hail from small towns in western UP, descend on the NCR in the thousands early every morning at Shahdara railway station. They take the Delhi metro to Chandni Chowk, a space that they’ve made their own. The shop owners - affectively referred to as lalaji - usually take these staff members on as young children, and then groom them to be the deft salesmen who impress buyers and visitors on the famed market roads of Old Delhi.
Alok Jain is a resident of the Gandhinagar colony across the river Yamuna in Delhi. He started working as a salesman when he was in the 10th grade, and was instantly immersed in the glittery world of the spree business. Today, Alok has his own saree unit in Gandhinagar, in the premises of his own residence. He sources sarees from factories in bulk, and hires female artisans to work on these weaves, enriching each saree with handwork to make them all unique. He then sells them in Chandni Chowk.
When asked about whether his history of draping sarees on himself made him feel effeminate or embarrassed at all, he vehemently denies it. “It was not at all embarrassing. It was fun. Some boys are such experts that they are even hired by our clients to teach them the art of draping sarees for various occasions. There is not just one way to drape a saree. Different regions in the country have unique styles and most of these boys are perfect in all these variants,” says Alok.
The practice is now gaining recognition far and wide. Salesboys in small towns throughout Uttar Pradesh have now begun on drape sarees on themselves to woo clients in with the design. This vocation is so popular that it has even caught the attention of Bollywood. In ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’, the lead character is a saree salesman who switches from one saree to another with quick efficiency. Rajkumar Rao portrayed this character with extreme flair. Similarly, the actor Irrfan Khan also used his own saree draping skills while promoting his movie, ‘Hindi Medium’. A picture of him with a red saree draped around him went viral around this time.
And so today, as Saree Twitter was on fire, we were reminded of the skilful and adept saree salesmen of Chandni Chowk. As women over the world showed off their drapes, we wonder how many were enticed into buying them by our silent saree heroes.
Here are some of the top tweets from the day Twitter burned bright with the beauty of thousands of drapes:
No doubt a Saree is a powerful fashion statement that makes women look gorgeous and stylish.— Israel in India (@IsraelinIndia) July 16, 2019
Here is our take (in pictures) on why we ❤️LOVE this gracious Indian National Attire #saree#SareeTwitter #sareeswag pic.twitter.com/Z2v0uIw6yI
And our favourite, of them all: