by Amy Marchand Collins
Merriam, Kansas, USA
In 1998 the Association for Global New Thought launched the first “Season for Nonviolence,” honoring the principles of M.K. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Unity Church of Overland Park was a sponsor in the Kansas City area, and I was on the leadership team. Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, who with his wife Sunanda carries on his grandfather’s work, accepted our invitation to come speak. We organized a dinner and fundraiser in his honor.
Because team members had traveled to India, I knew they would wear clothes purchased there. I wanted that look, too. The afternoon before the dinner I ventured to an Indian grocer rumored to carry saris.
In the store I found the saris — which were simply flat pieces of fabric. I had no idea how to put one on. I asked the manager if someone could show me. He indicated a woman, “My customer will help you.”
Embarrassed, but driven by the knowledge that the dinner was hours away, I explained my request and its purpose. She questioned: “Do you have a petticoat? Blouse? Sandals?” I had none.
What happened next amazed me. She said, “Come, I will lend you a sari.” Minutes later, I was driving behind her, her teenage daughter in my car in case I got lost. At the house, I was led upstairs. She opened drawers and boxes, pulling out a dazzling display of silk saris. Only one was off-limits — her wedding sari!
I chose a deep green silk sari accented with real gold. She found a blouse in a similar color, and a green petticoat with a drawstring waist. The drawstring anchors the fabric, which is pleated and tucked into the petticoat.
She began to fold, pleating the silk and draping it around me, anchoring it with a few safety pins. She showed me how the pins held the pleats in place, so I could put it on to wear for services the next morning. Next she produced beautiful gold and pearl jewelry: earrings, necklace and bracelets, as well as a bindi, the decorative accent worn in the center of the forehead. A pair of sandals (that fit!) completed the ensemble.
I felt exactly like Cinderella!
In the grand scheme of things, it matters little how I was dressed for that dinner. Yet I was deeply touched at the trust and generosity this woman displayed to a stranger. How easy to ignore my request or just tell me what I needed to purchase. Instead, she invited me to her home and dressed me from head to toe. She sent me on my way with hugs and well wishes, with no apparent concern about when she would see her precious things again. Although I consider myself to be both generous and trusting, I wonder if I would have done the same, had our positions been reversed.
I remain deeply grateful for the opportunity to wear her sari, and for her example of generosity and kindness.
- “My Spiritual Message” recorded by Mohandas K. Gandhi in 1931 in Kingsley Hall, London. Accessed via archive.org
- “Nice Playing Harp” by kevangc via freesfx.co.uk
- Music “Jamuna ke tira kanha” by Ustad Abdul Karim Khan – Bhairavi thumri (adha tal) via freemusicarchive.org