I'm currently 2 hours in to a 6 and a half hour train journey from Kochi to Nilambur having dropped off a bag of excess luggage ready for the flight back in March. All the books, soaps, incense sticks and scarves I've accumulated over the months have been packed up along with my favourite and most sentimental purchases, my saris.
Before coming to India I knew that I wanted to understand and wear the gorgeous 6.5 metre length of material that forms the sari. I've discovered that there are multiple ways to drape it - some more revealing, some more modest, some more practical and some more decorative. Each woman will have a certain style that she likes and will highlight her personality a little. The material itself can be divided into three parts - the body, which is the majority of the material which forms the drapes and is the main part of the dress; the pallu, which is the highly decorative back panel that hangs over the shoulder to the knee; and the blouse piece, which can either be bought separately or will be part of the existing material ready to be made to your size. This is usually matching or highlighting a colour from the body and you'll soon be told if you've chosen the wrong colour (I was!).
Shopping for saris is one of my favourite pastimes - Kalyan Silks is one of the best and like an old school department store where an assistant follows you round with your purchases. But buying from the nilambur small shops is great as they pull out sari after sari for you to look at. They can also be bought in bulk from auctions if you can keep up with the bidding!
I have the traditional Keralan sari of gold and cream, a beautiful blue sari with a multicolour trim and a guiltily bought red and gold sari from Mumbai. Yes I've only worn them a couple of times but to me they epitomise my experience and memories of this extraordinary country.