updated 26 Aug 2014, 06:34
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This Singaporean is tied to tradition
by Sheela Narayanan

DON’T ask Mrs R. Rajaram to wear anything else but the sari.

She has been wearing it since she was 16 and the elegant 69-year-old will not give up the sari for any other garment.

“To me the sari is very convenient. If you ask me to wear any other clothes I am not prepared to do that.”

She was asked once and her response was a stout no.

It happened in 1974 when her department at the National University Hospital (NUH), where she has worked for over 30 years, instituted a policy where staff had to wear a uniform.

“I refused to wear the uniform,” said the soft spoken elegant grandmother to tabla!

“But I offered to match my sari to the colour of the uniform.”

When the uniform policy kicked in, Mrs Rajaram had to hunt for a greyish blue sari in cotton, chiffon or georgette.

Since then the department changed the uniform colours every two years and she reckons her work saris may have gone through most of the colour spectrum.

“When they change the colour, I would have to go and hunt for the saris to match it, usually in Serangoon Road or I would get them from India. Finally when I retired and started part-time with them, I wore my own saris,” she said.

During her interview with tabla! she was wearing a black raw cotton sari which she bought from Chennai, where she was born.

For work she prefers cotton, chiffons and georgettes as it is lighter and easy to move around it, which she does elegantly in the NUH hallways.

The oldest sari she has is her Manipuri wedding sari, which she said was the rage back in 1963 when she got married and she keeps it in her camphorwood chest.

She also has another sari which her mother gave her. She has lost count of the number of saris in her closet and the number she has given away to her daughters and colleagues.

Mrs Rajaram feels that while the younger generation does not wear the sari on a daily basis because of convenience, the fabric has not lost its status as an important part of Indian fashion.

She said: “I see these young girls at functions and they wear lovely saris. It is becoming a fashion trend in Singapore. All the other races are wearing it too. I don’t see it diminishing.”

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