Category: Tanuja Desai Hidier

Born and raised in the USA, Tanuja Desai Hidier is an author/singer-songwriter now based in London. She is the recipient of the 2015 South Asia Book Award and the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and her short stories have been included in numerous anthologies. Tanuja’s pioneering novel, Born Confused, was named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and became a landmark work, hailed by both Rolling Stone Magazine and Entertainment Weekly as one of the greatest YA novels of all time. When We Were Twins, Desai Hidier’s album of original songs based on Born Confused, was featured in Wired Magazine for being the first-ever “booktrack.” Her new award-winning novel Bombay Blues(“teeming with energy and music…a chronicle of Bombay cool”, says theHindustan Times) and her accompanying album of original songs Bombay Spleen are out in the USA/Canada, and launched in India at the 2015 Jaipur Literature Festival. Bombay Spleen track “Deep Blue She” was a #VogueEmpower playlist selection (Vogue India’s social awareness initiative for women). The music video for Bombay Spleen’s first release, ode-to-the-city “Heptanesia”, is currently airing on Pepsi-MTV Indies. For more information, please visit

February 10th, 2016 by dare2drape

By: Tanuja Desai Hidier

Sari7b Sari7e Sari7d Sari7a Sari7f Sari7c

Full disclosure: My parents came to town and did this drape for me. The seventh in the seven-sari Dare2Drape Challenge.

I was honored to be asked to be a leading face for Triveni. As well, my father is from Gujarat, where Triveni is based (my mother is from Bombay).

Boston-USA-born me, I only lived in India a couple of years as a baby. In fact, both of my books and albums have been inspired by my desire to know this mother-and-father-land better, while exploring the many-layered experience of inhabiting a multicultural identity.

And what more fitting fabric to explore this layering than a sari? The sari features numerous times in both of my novels (in fact, it even inspired me to write a song called “Sari” for When We Were Twins, my album of songs based on my first novel Born Confused!).

Born Confused takes its name from the term American Born Confused Desi. Through the journey of Indian-American heroine Dimple Lala during a summer where she’s trying to bring her cultures together without falling apart in the process—undergoing her own kind of ‘draping’ challenge, so to speak–I wanted to redefine the C for Confused to one for Creative, as this felt to me to more accurately reflect the desis that people my world. People who were in fact shaping fact shaping –draping!–and creating the culture as they went along. As we went along. And still are.

And now these saris have become an extension of that redefining. I’d never tried to put one on before week one of the Dare2Drape challenge and began the process in utter confusion. Like my protagonist, I am working my way to turn that Confusion to Creativity.

And I must say, it’s been a treat with these beautiful saris!

Drape center of material behind the neck. Bring ends in front and tuck in in front of the blouse. Bring the rest of the material behind. Pleat and tuck in the back. Bring the tie over ears so baubles hang down like earrings.

Posted in Leading Faces, Tanuja Desai Hidier

February 10th, 2016 by dare2drape

By: Tanuja Desai Hidier

Sari6e Sari6d Sari6a Sari6b

Wearing this sari feels like throwing a party—a gardeny, street-arty, comic bookish, Gran Prix, Alice in Wonderland, fruit-falling-off-trees party—on your body. Fun, festive, chaotic: a dancing canvas; a nutty ice-cream cone of an outfit. The grin-inducing clishclash of patterns immediately brought to mind what was already in my ears (and making me grin): New Order’s album Music Complete –whose artwork, created by Peter Saville, uncannily matches it (well, then I suppose anything would match this sari!). The album art varies depending on the format (for example, on the CD it’s yellow, red, blue, green clockwise; the LP, red, yellow, green, and blue). I love the music: infectiously joyful, danceable, even the ‘sad’ songs, and layered with gorgeous sonic tones and shades. And the variation in the art is a great touch, as art, like anything, is an ever evolving shape-shifting thing, depending on the ‘taster’. A metamorphosing drape in it’s own way, according to how you hear, see, wear, feel it. A Tutti-Frutti of different hues and gouts. (And another, however rather different, composer and shape-shifter of color was on the walls in the room in which New Order was in my ears and this sari upon me: Mark Rothko. So I have included this tunesmith of shape, shade, scale—designer of a new and wonderful form of abstract painting—here too). Felt kind of out there, but fitting. Like this drape.

Despite the name I’ve given it and the crazy fun pattern, this is a more traditional drape: Tuck one end in on the right side. Bring it around the back. Pleat in front and tuck in. Bring the rest of the material around from behind. Cross it over the left shoulder.

Soundtrack: New Order/”Tutti Frutti”

Posted in Leading Faces, Tanuja Desai Hidier

December 18th, 2015 by dare2drape

By: Tanuja Desai Hidier








It’s been a wonderfully va-va-vrooming road trip of a year. Writing a book, you take your characters on a journey. And your characters take you on one as well. During my writing of Bombay Blues and accompanying albumBombay Spleen, I lived in that distant motherland city by the sea. While there for my three research trips, yes…but also for the three-plus years of the writing process, I inhabited this metropolis of the meeting of my parents, the birth of my mother, and brother, too: on the page…and in the imagination, via my heroine Dimple Lala.

And now, with these works out in the world, on-page Dimple has allowed me to continue these travels off-page as well: In January I headed back to India for the launch of Bombay Blues/Spleen there, first at the Jaipur Literature Festival, then in Bombay. In the spring,  Dimple took me back to the wonderland I’d lived in nearly ten years and that inspired my first novel, prequel Born Confused: New York City. And this October, for one of the most memorable trips of all, Dimple accompanied me to a part of my own birth country I’d never seen before: Madison, Wisconsin.

Madison is an amazing city—on an isthmus, with a stunning state Capitol, jazzy music venues and tummy-rumbling foods (it’s cream country, after all; fried cheese curds were a discovery!). The city and University of Madison campus intertwine to create a really lovely buzzy vibe. And the warm, welcoming people of the Midwest I met there: The best part of all.

It was a magical five days: I was there as Bombay Blues had received the 2015 South Asia Book Award, which was such an honor. The awards ceremony was held as part of the 44th Annual Conference on South Asia at the University of Madison–the world’s largest such event, with more than 800 scholars, students, professionals, writers, artists in attendance for four days. (Yes, in Madison, Wisconsin. Who knew?) I also had the great pleasure of meeting children’s category winner, the utterly delightful talent Paula Yoo, as well as honor authors Vivek Shreya and Padma Venkatraman.

The entire experience was serious refuel for the writing road!

And now, I’ve wound full circle in this road trip of a year to wrap it up and ring in the new in the small town in Western Massachusetts. where I grew up from the age of two. On these streets that are the basis of those in my books, though those stories are set miles away. Overlooking Bennett Pond…which became the fictitious Mirror Lake on the page. Setting of the childhood experiences—including being the first ‘brown’ family in the whole area all those years ago—that ignitioned my writing path.

And surrounded by the people who believed in this path, and in me, even when I barely believed myself.

And the next generation as well, those little ones to whom we pass on that faith.

There’s no place like home. But that’s because home is not a place. It’s a sense of sanctuary. And I’m so happy to be here again.

Feeling ever ever so blessed.

And may you and yours be blessed, too.

Happy holidays, all! 

For this winding road of a drape, tuck one end on the right side. Bring it around. Pleat and tuck in. Wind rest of material around in one full circle. Bring it over the right shoulder from behind and leave it hanging from there. (You can use a brooch to keep it fastened on shoulder and waist.) As a final touch, I brought the blouse ties around the neck and tied them with the baubles hanging down like a necklace. I also attached multicolored feather clip-on earrings to the draped fabric, around the naval area.

Posted in Leading Faces, Tanuja Desai Hidier

October 15th, 2015 by dare2drape

By: Tanuja Desai Hidier

Sari4c20151009_140338 Sari4b20151009_140402 Sari4a20151009_140812


My memories of India are nearly always intertwined with flowers. The bloom-bling of marigolds, the knockout intoxication of roses, the stealthy seduction of jasmine. Childhood walks with my grandfather, my Dadaji, in Powai, to pick fresh flowers for the kitchen temple. When my grandmother would place them there, in the flat in Bombay (not yet Mumbai), they left a brilliant powdery stain on her hands, as if a butterfly had been caught and clasped there. More recently, as I explored Bombay for my second novel, Bombay Blues, blooms abounded—in the city, and, eventually, on the pages. Phoolwallahs effacing every surface with blossom-burst, stringing garlands with the care and grace of violinists. Temple interiors aladdining in incense and oils, so flower-powered as to seem constructed of petals in parts.And flowers are a fragrant fragment of my memories of living in NYC too. Late-night rambles from the Lower East Side all the way to my last apartment on the Upper West, all along the way—whether through the jam-packed Village pitch of nightshade people, or the desolate parking lot heart-stopping 8th Ave parts: open-all-night delis glowed like beacons, selling dirt-cheap and cheery flowers under plastic rain-shield awnings. My favorites—like my protagonist Dimple Lala’s—were the voluptuous bouquets of swimming-pool-blue gerberas. I often kept flowers in my 86th Street room—whether given to me by me (often the case!) or someone else. For whether you’re a fool for love or a lover of phool, instant joy stems when they’re around.

How does your garden flow?: For this drape, I wrapped the fabric shawl-like over one arm, crisscrossing the border down across my midriff. Rather than tucking it in straight, I let the rest of the chiffon fall and rise in different-length dips around the waist and hips, gathering it at the navel. I gathered the shawl side around the navel as well, and secured it all there, in a bunch. And slid on a daisy ring for the final touch.

Sari4f20151009_140457 Sari4e20151009_140134 Sari4d20151009_140057

LovePhool Drape soundtrack:

“LoveFool” by the Cardigans


Posted in Leading Faces, Tanuja Desai Hidier

September 29th, 2015 by dare2drape

By: Tanuja Desai Hidier

__TDHSari3a20150928_180433 crop __TDHSari3d20150928_175659 __TDHSari3e20150928_175222

Our home is often filled with music—singing, playing, blasting off the iPod dock. We often begin the day with a little kitchen disco–interwoven with the toothbrush-haircomb-shoebuckling soundtrack of getting our girls ready for school–where we turn up the tunes (Patti Smith, New Order, Mother Mother, Taylor Swift), dance on the stairs, chairs…and occasionally, the table (highly recommended). I write songs, too –lyrics and melodies (though much of that songwriting happens in the shower, on the tube, and daydreaming down the sidewalk, as well as in rehearsal and recording spaces with, most recently, my musical coconspirators on my ‘booktrack’ album Bombay Spleen).
And now this room is the buzzing hub of our little tunedom. Once filled mostly with Legos, puzzles (missing many a piece), checkers and Clue (missing Miss Scarlet), beloved books, and a menagerie of stuffed jingling toys—this playroom has been swiftly metamorphosing into another kind of play area: a music-making space. I’m not really sure how it happened, but drums, ukele, guitar, harmonica, tambourine and shaky egg bit by bit migrated here and it just kind of seemed to find its flow. Similarly with this drape: I’m not so sure what I did, but just kind of followed the tune of the textile. First I paper-clipped the petticoat up in the middle, bunching it up pantaloons-style to leave my legs a little freer (especially handy for the drumkit, and to make way for a pair of black boots). After rock-n-rolling the fabric around my waist and up through the legs, I brought one end of it over my shoulder towards the front, and clipped it to the waistline, leaving it a little loose like a shawl. The other I wound round my other arm a few times. Spiraled it down. Pulled the end through a chunky elastic bracelet, leaving a bit hanging like a butterfly sleeve.
__TDHSari3b 20150928_180530 __TDHSari3c 20150928_174649 __TDHSari3f20150928_180433
And…hit play!

Posted in Leading Faces, Tanuja Desai Hidier

September 22nd, 2015 by dare2drape

By: Tanuja Desai Hidier

TDH-Sari2-Banquette 20150920_104532 TDH-Sari2-Cafe20150920_103923 TDH-Sari2-DreamBench

The Vendée Mataram (AKA Counter-Revolutionary) Drape—so named as I donned this sari in La Vendée: motherland of my jeevansaathi and French family, as well as site of the counter-revolutionary insurrections during the French Revolution, during which time thousands of men, women, and children in this part of France—including members of our own family–were massacred at the hands of the French army for fighting to preserve their freedom in religious choice and other matters. I am very proud to be connected to this region—and particularly to be a part of my Vendéen family. This drape is dedicated to them, and is especially in loving memory of my belle-mère and beau-père (my in-laws—but the French translation is a much nicer and more accurate way of putting it, as they were truly beautiful and brave people). The photos were taken in the garden of my cousine Anne-Marie next door to the family home. The coffee grinder belonged to the parents of my belle-mère, and in one of the photos I’m wearing the double-hearts of La Vendée. I find this symbol particularly resonant for me, as in this union with my own life partner we have brought together two cultures, countries (actually, more than that), and families–and have produced two children as well! This theme of double-heartedness, of cultural—and personal–fusions (and, at times, confusions!) is one I’ve explored in both my novels and music….and will likely continue to explore as, as with a sari, there are endless layers to the telling of this tale. For the Counter-Revolutionary Drape: The fabric that would normally have been pleated into the throw I wrapped–literally in a counter-revolution!–around my chest, lining up the gold border with the borders on the choli/blouse. I then brought the next stretch of fabric around my waist, lining up the borders once again. Next, I brought the fabric diagonally down and around my hips and upper legs –again, as in Week 1, securing it with a paper clip (which you can see in one of the shots!). The remaining fabric is brought around the lower legs and the border round to encircle the ankles and feet (I wore black leggings rather than a petticoat for this one), lining up with the top two gold chest and waist bands. Vendée Mataram, I salute thee!

TDH-Sari2-Jardin TDH-Sari2-Mirroir TDH-Sari2-Recettes & Coeur Vendeen 20150920_110836


Posted in Leading Faces, Tanuja Desai Hidier

September 17th, 2015 by dare2drape

By: Tanuja Desai Hidier



AKA The American Born Creative Desi drape – that began with six yards of unpleated Confusion for me: a US-born Indian-American (Maharashtran mother/Gujarati father) now living in London…who’d never previously ever attempted to put on a sari! But this gorgeous georgette number was just so irresistible I had to at least try to turn that confusion into something a tiny bit creative.

I think of it as the Writer’s Drape as the whole process took place at in a room that’s floor-to-ceiling books—and even more so, because of how the saris are held together: I didn’t have a single safety pin at home, as I discovered to my concern on this day of my first ever drape..,but, luckily, as an author/singer-songwriter, do have paper clips of all shapes and sizes that I primarily use to hold together drafts of chapters and songs—and, as of now, Triveni sarees, too! The drapes are mostly similar to the Nivi style (which I’ve just come to learn about), but instead of placing the pallu on the left shoulder, it’s brought over the right one towards the front, and then left either hanging or partly tucked in at the back.

Happy new beginnings (and drapings) to my lovely fellowess Dare2Drapers—and to all of you! (And happy Ganesh Chaturthi as well.)


Posted in Leading Faces, Tanuja Desai Hidier