I have always worn saris - I used to learn classical dance as a kid, as well as several forms of Indian folk dances, so I’d known how to wear one since the age of nine or ten. The school I went to for my dance classes used to go on tour to other cities every year, so we had to learn to manage by ourselves, without having our moms around to help us out. So I didn’t actually face that fairly common problem that most girls come across for the first time in Class XII (or even Class X): “How will I manage my sari at my school farewell?!” So naturally, come college time as well, I didn’t worry about what I should wear at the fresher’s day functions and stuff. I’d wear a sari, as I always did for any kind of dressy occasion - weddings, festivals, everything.
There was one thing that was different, though. I’d gone to an all-girls’ school. So all my sari-wearing had mostly been in front of girls. And everywhere else I’d worn a sari - there too I was constantly surrounded by family and friends and stuff. They’d all pointed out that my sari-wearing was just a tiny little bit scandalous since I habitually tied it pretty low on my waist, but I’d never been bothered since it was always in front of people I had known all my life. No embarrassment or worry.
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But my college was different - it was a co-ed one, and the fresher’s function was going to be happening at the amphitheatre. An open-air venue, which would be full of the good two or three thousand students from the arts, science and engineering faculties, as well as professors. And as a complete fuccha, I wanted to make a good impression, not a “scandalous” one. Despite having performed on stage for years, I was suddenly very nervous. I did NOT want people thinking I was showing too much skin so early on in my college career and develop a “reputation”. Especially since the college had, I'd heard from people, a few incidents of ragging every year. So, after much deliberation, I decided that I was going to tie my sari as high as possible. Up to my neck, if possible, I thought to myself as I got ready for the function.
The function went well, mostly. There were lots of songs performed by seniors from various departments, some dances too. Us newbies felt quite welcomed, actually. Which was surprising, since we'd kinda expected to get bullied or made fun of. It was a really nice to be made to feel part of the college community just a week in. So towards the end, when the seniors asked reps from each first year class to come up on stage and say a few words, I was most happy to volunteer. Off I went on stage and said nice thank-you-so-much type things. People clapped, and I felt like quite the rockstar for having been bold enough to do this instead of hiding behind people like most of the other first-years were doing. After that I turned to the boy from the history department, who was supposed to be speaking next, to hand him the mic. He stepped forward, I started walking back towards the stage exit...and then I felt this strange tug and slither. I looked down and almost fainted in horror - my sari had come off completely!
It took me a second or two to figure out what exactly had happened to leave me standing in my blouse and petticoat on the stage while my sari lay draped on the floor instead of around me. It looked like the moron from history had stepped on the edge of my pleats while the mic exchange happened - and I had walked away with his foot still on my sari. And idiot that he was, completely oblivious to the disaster that had befallen me, he was actually facing the audience and making a full-blown speech!
Of course, he might not be able to see me, but the thousands of people at the amphi sure could. People were yelling and waving their hands behind me. I was so shocked and horrified that all I could hear was this roaring noise in my head while blood rushed to my face and ears and I turned tomato-red from embarrassment. I could not tell whether people were cheering History-Moron or booing me for providing unexpected A+ entertainment. All I could do was walk back, pick my sari up with as much dignity as I could muster and then force myself to exit the stage with steady, measured steps - instead of running away screaming, which is what I actually wanted to do. All the while, History-Moron just went on speechifying.
I have to say: I have never been as mortified in my life as I was on that day. And also for several weeks after that. Because obviously everyone in college - from the canteen staff to the professors to every single student - had either seen my wardrobe malfunction moment or heard of it. And I was christened “Draupadi” by a smartass from the maths department. But while people laughed at me a lot, no one was actually mean to me. Or crude about it to my face. Everyone just treated it as a big joke - which really surprised me because my years at a girls’ convent had led me to believe that boys were all very unpleasant. And slowly I stopped being embarrassed and started to see the ridiculous side of things.
I’d been so stressed out about appearing “conventional” that I’d tied my petticoat about four inches higher than where I’d normally tie it, so that it ended above my ankles. So when History-Moron had unknowingly stepped on the sari border, instead of the thick cotton petticoat providing protection against exactly such situations, his shoe had encountered low-resistance chiffon. It was my weird obsession with not showing midriff and staying all covered up that had resulted in my reveal-all moment! And the funniest part? Everyone who knew me - from friends to family - had always thought of me as the sari expert until that day. *Head-desk-slam*
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The incident eventually turned out to be a great ice-breaker. I never had difficulty starting conversations with anyone in college, no matter how senior, because I was “Draupadi”, and we could always laugh about my accidental “vastra-haran”. It actually made me more confident about dealing with people - even strangers who might know something terribly embarrassing about me. And, honestly, after such a disastrous start, the rest of my college experience was totally brilliant. After all, it couldn’t have got much worse, could it? :P
Published on Jul 10, 2016