Poetry: How to Tie a Saree by Hamsini Hariharan

Hamsini Hariharan

Hamsini Hariharan is a podcaster, and foreign policy researcher. She has been writing since she was six years old. Hamsini believes that the personal is political and her poems often reflect the intersection of both spaces. She is currently based in China.




How to Tie a Saree

by Hamsini Hariharan


First you tie your inskirt,

Tight like your hymen,

But it should allow for

Pleats to be inserted inside.

Now tuck one round of the sari

Into the petticoat like a fondant

Take the other end,

Swirl it like a staircase

Let it fall over your shoulder

You need artist’s fingers: long and nimble

For pleats to be easier.

Feel like you are wearing the ocean

Your waist will remind you of your softness

And sometimes, the wind will kiss your lower back.

Your best friends are like safety pins.

They hold you up in the giant scheme of things

And make sure you never unravel too much.

You are not the straight back of a stiff chair.

You are curves and spirals and falls.

No one knows where you begin or where you end

And on the tired days,

You don’t know either.

Some men will clutch at your pallu

Trying to rob you of everything you have

Only, like Duryodhan, to find that you are infinite.

And there will be other times

When you are discarded on the floor,

Cloth and cloak,

Skin and shell,

Dignity and despair.

Because men seem to love women

Whose skin they can see

They haven’t seen a woman before,

Spoken to her,

Kissed her lips,

Bit her naval,

They think us goddesses

My goddesses don’t wield power.

She wears white and plays the veena

Or wears green and spouts coins from her hand


My goddesses have many limbs

To satisfy all the demands

Thrust on them.

But I remember that

My goddesses can also wear

White and red

And slay darkness

Or green zari, open hair

And walk through fire


You can wear a saree any way

You want.

And it will become your armour

As you choose it to be.


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