“I was 25 years old, when I married Bhausaheb,” Vijaya aunty remembers. “I was a much older bride considering that the year was 1956.”
Vijayabai ( as she is fondly addressed) came from a family that valued education, especially for girls. Her parents wanted their daughters to have a wholesome education before getting them married off.
“Bhausaheb’s grandmother gave me this shela when I entered the Patwardhan household as a new bride”. Vijayabai shares this memory as she touches the beautiful black shela that she has draped on her shoulders.
Vijayabai is 88 years today and she has happily agreed to wear her favourite Paithani and her heirloom shela , just for me.
I am really touched by this gesture of hers.
When I entered her house to visit her, Sumedha , her daughter in law, welcomed me . “She’s ready and waiting for you , ” she said.
I walked inside and there she was . Sitting regally in her favourite armchair. Draped in a gorgeous maroon and gold Paithani. The colour perfectly complimenting her fair complexion. She was wearing the traditional ‘thushi ‘ ( gold chocker) and a long gold mohanmaal. Her silver hair, pulled back elegantly and the trademark long maroon bindi on her forehead. The black shela, draped beautifully on her right shoulder. Traditional gold ‘patlis ‘ and ‘bangdis ‘ shone from her delicate wrists.
‘A Paithani deserves traditional gold jewellery’ she said firmly. ‘How can I pose in a Paithani without wearing these authentic maharashtrian jewels? ”
I admire her enthusiasm!
She looked so elegant, I was blown away.
She posed happily for the photographs, all the while talking and remembering the many occasions that she had worn that maroon Paithani.
The decades gone by had not dulled the shine of her Paithani, not the sparkle in her eyes as she spoke of the memories that she shared with her Paithani.
Like when she wore it for her older son’s wedding, or for Bhausaheb’s 60th birthday. She would sometimes close her eyes while talking about it , as though she could see it in her minds eye like it happened yesterday.
(Unfortunately Bhausaheb passed away in 2002. )
She points to the shela and says, “Do you know this is more that 150 years old? And as per tradition it belongs to Sumedha . And then, naturally it will go to my grandson’s wife ! It is a legacy that will stay in the family .” Her voice was filled with pride when she said that.
By now I am in seventh heaven. I cannot believe that this shela is such an antique one.
It still looks as good as new. The gold ( pure silver, plated with gold) still glows and glistens through its delicate threads.
The earlier shelas and Paithani sarees were made in pure cotton and pure silver and gold zari.
I feel privileged that I have been allowed to view and even touch this heirloom.
Vijayabai happily poses for more pictures. “You look like a queen “, I said.
“I feel like one,” she answered promptly, “every single time that I wear my Paithani.”
That’s the magic of the paithani!