Six Yards of Cloth

“It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up,” scratches out the robotic voice of my alarm.

Ugh.  I open my eyes to the blinding gold of the morning sunlight streaming in through metal bars and wire mesh on my window.  The crickets are already at it even this early.  It’s almost deafening, but I tune it out until it’s just white noise in the background.  Horns blare from the snake-like roads down the side of the mountain. A rollicking Punjabi beat pulses from somewhere in the distance. Yep, I’m in India.  I had forgotten for a second.

I flop out of my bed like some kind of dying fish, and my bleary eyes alight on the sari I laid out so carefully last night.  Oh, yeah, it’s Sunday.

Ugh.  I groan.  I don’t wanna wear a sari today.  I’m exhausted.  I’ve got a headache.  I feel gross.  I’m fat.  It’s such a pain to put on.  And do I really want to hike to church in that?

Another voice intrudes in the midst of my whining: Everybody really appreciates it when you wear their traditional clothing.  It really blesses them.  Embrace their culture.  Love them.  Besides, you do look really nice in it.  C’mon, you can tie it in only twenty minutes, get a move on.

Grumbling, I tie on the petticoat and button up the blouse.  Why do they have to make it so ridiculously tight?!  I shake out the six yards of vibrant cloth and try to find the right end to start.

Once ‘round, tucking whole way; around again, one tuck; then grab the farthest end and start pleating.  After about six tries I’m ready to scream and tear the stupid, ugly thing apart.  It just won’t come out right!  But because I’m stubborn and maybe just to spite the rotten piece of fabric, I keep trying.

It takes what seems like hours to finally get it right and by that time I’m tottering on the edge of a mental breakdown.  So you can imagine what I feel when I try to pin it in place and the perfectly pleated pallu slithers from my fingers and falls completely apart.  Yet by some miracle I get it redone and pinned over my shoulder.  Then I wrap it around me like I’m a colorful Indian burrito, and start pleating the slack in the front. This also takes multiple tries to get the pleats even and neat, then pin and tuck and pin and fix and tug.  But at last it is finished.

Then comes the crisis of modesty and conscience about whether to let that swath of stark-white

midriff show or not.  In this culture, it is perfectly acceptable.  But my Montanan, conservative home school mind can’t quite accept the idea of showing MINE.  Even so, I decide to wear my sari the Indian way.  It’s getting easier to do that… a fact for which I’m grateful, yet it is also somewhat unsettling.

Yes, the hike to church is difficult (especially in the sandals that I, like an idiot, chose to wear), the folds are tough to manage, and my headache hasn’t gone anywhere.  But on finally getting there, I can see on the faces of my Indian brothers and sisters that they are pleased.

There is a dignity and a special femininity and grace in the sari.  There’s a connection with the women of this land who know what a challenge it is, and appreciate my effort.  There’s an openness and warmth in their eyes that touches my heart and makes it all worth it.

But really, I just hope that even through all my silliness and vanity and my obsession with ME, they can see Jesus and His Love.  Because, no matter how often I forget, that’s all that really matters.

So Lord-willin’, I’m wearing it again tomorrow.

“…clothe yourselves in…. patience.”

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12,14


Montana native. Farm girl. Asia dweller. Sari wearer. Music maker. Amateur poet. Budding author. Homeschool graduate. Lumerit Scholar. Communications major. ESL teacher. Aspiring expressive arts therapist. Coffee lover. Child of God.

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Comments (4)

  1. This is beautiful, Mina! I love the parallelism between the physical and the mental struggle. I visited India when I was 10 (my family was looking at moving there), and I wore a Punjabi suit, but never tried a sari…. It looks lovely on you! <3

    1. Thanks, Rachel! What part of India did you visit? What an incredible experience to have when you were 10! I love the Indian suits as well, they are so comfortable and feminine at the same time! 🙂

      1. We visited Dehli and Mussoorie. (The headquarters of the organization we were hoping to work with had its headquarters in Mussoorie.) Yes! I was very sad when I outgrew the one or two I had from when I was younger. 🙁 Another reason I need to go back sometime! 🙂