Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Run, Lata, Run.....

For many years, you wore clothes as a basic need. Sometimes,  slightly different designs and cuts to celebrate occasions , for yourself or with others. 

But never, in one's wildest imagination did one think that one was making , what is today referred to as a fashion statement.

One grew up in a no nonsense environment that encouraged exercising and sports, along with studies. The only concession made to sports outfits , was  a divided skirt for school sports and badminton , and  an everlasting red swimming suit that defied all the chemicals in the chlorinated pool. Heated pools were completely unknown, and anyone who hesitated to get into a cold pool at  , say,  a winter morning at 6 am , was simply pushed in. Acting self conscious while wearing these things was frowned upon, towelling robes were worn only in movies, and you basically got on with what you came to do.  You must understand that this was a time when frocks as uniforms elicited caustic comments from certain folks.

The pool would be filled with folks who abhorred wearing swimsuits, and landed up in shorts and tops,  self stitched swimsuit stuff with sleeves , high necks and legs (you now know where speedo got inspired from)  , and some ladies even swam in 9 yard sarees worn in an innovative way , so your legs were free , but completely  covered.  A bit like the 9 yard sarees worn by reality show dancers, koli fisher women and so on,  and one of my own abiding memories is of a tall lady wearing one of these 9 yards, executing a graceful dive, and emerging out without being smothered by fabric floating all over .  Many years later I would greatly admire a senior lady  of prosperous proportions, a very traditional minded lady , who wore this frilled swimsuit with complete nonchalance, and executed one of the smoothest dives I have seen anyone do. Turns out she spent her childhood in Varanasi, learned swimming in the Ganges, which had currents, and became an expert swimmer. It was a pleasure to watch her swim, and no one really cared about what she wore.

By and by,  many decades later , the daughter took up swimming at 7 (or is it 9) , in a red frilled swimsuit. Those were the days you wore speedos for serious swimming where you wanted to reduce the "drag" factor in the water, since timing mattered. The speedo suits were very expensive, available in limited places, and i remember waiting for a few months to see how serious the child would be about the competitive swimming (for which she trained), before investing in one. Theoretically, one could swim wonders even in frilled suits and shorts, but by now suits and caps were mandatory.

There was a time when the coach wished to have the kids swim with certain added loads, and we outfitted them with pull-on synthetic shorts available anywhere, and loaded the pockets with pebbles and stitched them up.  We also made belts were we could put known loads and tied these around the swimmer waists.

Today it is all about making sports a fashion.  There is no life without track pants, and tops , which sometimes look like sleeveless saree blouses, exposed midriff and all. Rank beginners in swimming,  arrive outfitted  with the latest in speedos, fancy expensive  goggles, caps, floats, flippers and what have you, matching towels, magic dryers, lotions, sunscreen et al.  You see guys in cricket smearing some white sunscreen stuff on their faces while playing; all this started happening after teams from other countries started doing this to keep from getting sunburnt and television started spying in closeups and stuff.  Every person doing sports has some kind of wrap around him, whether its ankles, knees, wrists or elbow, and even thighs. I just often wonder whether folks in the older days tanned less, or had better muscles.

And so it was with a great deal of pleasure that I came upon this article in the DNA newspaper, relating to a lady wearing a 9 yard traditional saree,  an immigrant working on a  farm site, who decided to run the Baramati marathon near Pune. 

No , the folks at Nike, Reebok , Puma et all do not know her at all,  neither do folks who manufacture track pants and tops, with assorted bands to tie around your hands, necks, and foreheads.  

Because she ran and won the race, wearing her normal 9 yard saree, long sleeved blouse, palloo covering her head. She ran in her slippers, till one broke, whereupon she got rid of the other and continued on to win the race.

This news report appeared in the DNA newspaper and you can read about it here.

Lata Bhagwan Kare , 61, mother of a grown up son,  works as a farm labourer, left all the "athletes" way behind within minutes of the starting, and was adjudged this year’s Fastest Marathon Runner.

Many congratulations  to this amazing gutsy lady....!

A thought just occurred.

I've been looking for outfitters to make   pull-on 9 yard sarees (pleats and tuckins and all) , which one can wear, say, like a salwar, and then organize the palloo as required . 

All the folks offer 4 varieties of 9 yard saree styles : Peshwai(Brahminical), Paramparik , Kolhapuri  and Tamashaa(Dance)  style. 

Maybe time has now come, to honor Latabai, and define a new style, the Marathon Winner 9  yard saree style .....


  1. Thanks for posting this! Loved that she did it with her bear feet at the age of 61!!

  2. At 61, in a nine yard saree. Puts everyone to shame, GuruMA! I can't even run 2 mins without breaking into huffs and puffs :|

    She does deserve the applause!

  3. wow.. incredible. older but stronger than other man, can run with saree. i love traditional fashion. may be in mind at lata baghwan same like that. in indonesia, in my country, traditional fashion name is kebaya.