At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that I’d get a new sari (one that wasn’t a hand-me-down from older generations in my family; one that was truly mine). On Wednesday night, I made my selection on a website. As I was just about to pay, I stopped. I’ve previously touched on my relationship with my race and culture in a previous blog post. Trying to buy a sari brought a lot of those feelings back.
When my grandparents came to this country from Fiji, they did what they could to assimilate. As well as having their given names, they also had anglicised names – this was also the case for my mum and her siblings. Even I anglicised my name for the majority of my childhood, going by Cherie rather than Chereeka. Assimilation also impacted the way my family dressed. There are some pictures of female family members wearing saris in the UK (most around the sixties and seventies) but as the years have gone by these images have become scarce. In my lifetime, I cannot remember seeing any woman in my family in a sari. I’ve only every seen close family friends in them or strangers going about their own business. With all this in mind, it made me wonder whether I should be buying a sari if they hadn’t been worn for such a long time. Would I be able to put it on without my mum’s help? Would it look wrong on me? Would people question what I’m wearing?
Another thought that made me pause was my own background. I’ve only ever worn my mother’s sari. I wear it rarely but when I do, I feel a greater connection to her and the older generation of women in my family. Should I be able to wear it more often? I’ve been brought up in majority white neighbourhoods and educational institutions. On several occasions, I’ve been referred to as a coconut or Oreo – not brown enough. Also Fijians are such a tiny ethnic group in the UK, it’s hard to find someone from the same background to discuss this stuff with. I know I’m waffling at this point but what I’m trying to say is do I have enough connection with Desi culture to wear it? I want to take pride in my ancestry but I don’t want to be disrespectful or disingenuous either.
I know it’s not the biggest issue to be discussing but it is something that I worry about. Maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned with other people’s opinions. Maybe I should already know the answer. However, I still ask myself: should I buy the sari?