I was trying today to write this article about a person whose style I admire. I cast over movie stars and designers, college friends and girl crushes, for several minutes, till suddenly, I knew.
Amma has always been the epitome of chic Army wife. She slides into and out of the role with so much grace. She wears cotton sarees for coffee mornings, chiffons and light silks for evening tea parties and gleaming Kanjeevarams for dinner nights. Ever since I can remember, on the nights when she and Appa would go out for a dinner, I would watch her getting ready, fascinated. She would open her closet revealing sarees piled high, arranged according to importance and occasion. Despite the several score sarees in there (whenever we moved, we always needed two trunks just for them) she could always tell me exactly when she got which one. Sometimes she would let me select for her and I would agonize over finding the right saree, a matching blouse and perfect jewelery.
She would let me play with her makeup and jewelery as she dressed. I would carefully paint my face in rosebud shades and try on elaborate gold necklaces, but I could never manage to look like her. I would watch as she deftly formed perfect pleats and tucked them in and carefully folded the pallu and pinned it to her shoulder. Often, she would tuck a rosebud Appa had given her, in her hair. As a final touch, she would mist herself in jasmine scented perfume and then stand before us for our admiring inspection. At times like those, she was a perfectly beautiful woman with a lovely smile and rosebuds in her hair, but she always seemed so unfamiliar. We knew Amma was in there too, but she was someone else then- standing erect, all five feet of her, next to Appa's lounge-suited, towering frame. She and Appa would leave for the party after many exhortations to us to sleep in time.
When they returned, she would always come quietly to my room to check if I was asleep and kiss my forehead. She smelled of night air and jasmines, of roses and warmth, and then, she was Amma again.