Military saris in vogue as India parades patriotism to Pakistan

Salesmen pack a sari, a traditional clothing worn by women, with printed images of India’s Prime Minister and Indian Army inside a shop in Surat, India. (Reuters pic)

SURAT: Indian sari manufacturers are cashing in on a wave of patriotism over a dispute with arch-foe Pakistan to create military-emblazoned versions of the traditional woman’s drape.

Inside a smoky factory in the western city of Surat, machines run 24 hours a day to churn out fabrics showing jets and the face of an air force pilot shot down in a dog fight with the neighbouring rival.

Both nations said they downed jets, with Pakistan capturing a pilot, in a long-running conflict over the Kashmir region.

At Annapurna Industries, workers toil in three shifts to meet demand for saris, which retail at around 850 rupees (US$12).

One version features Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the moustachioed pilot who crash-landed in Pakistan-controlled territory, becoming the face of the conflict.

He returned to India on March 1 to a hero’s welcome and the flare up has eased for now.

“I had only expected orders for some 500 saris,” said Manish Agrawal, a director at Annapurna Industries. “But it’s already crossed 4,000 and still more orders are pouring in.”

Another manufacturer, Jamkudi Sarees, has prepared five new designs to meet the high demand. These are detailed, if exaggerated, depictions of warplanes flying into Pakistan, inspired by a Feb. 26 attack on suspected militants.

“I prepared one design in only four hours after our surgical strike into Pakistan. It usually takes seven days to make such a design,” said Vinod Surana, the owner of Jamkudi Sarees.

“It’s been a hit.”

Surat, a textile manufacturing hub, is located in Gujarat, home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom pollsters say has benefited politically from the tensions with Pakistan ahead of a general election due by May.