Happy Onam! Ente Kutties and Kuttans!


Onam always reminds me of Onam Sadhya, pookalam, men and women dressed to the occasion. My first ever memory of Onam is one that is of my mother, dressed in a Kasavu saree. Her elegance and beauty did not just reflect in her attire but she also carried herself with absolute confidence. She was comfortable with who she was. My mother always wears cotton sarees because she believes that nothing can look good on her like those simple drapes.   She would wear silk sarees and other types of sarees only for rare occasions. Her dressing style influenced me a lot in my life, be it as Alex or as my drag persona, Maya. I will always be concerned if I am dressed to the occasion.

With my mother being my inspiration, the first saree that I draped, was from her wardrobe. She handed it to me, not quite sure about how I was going to use it but, she warned me that the blouse would be too tight for me. When I told her that I had become a drag performer in Bangalore, she took a little time to understand what it really meant. Very soon she began giving me tips on how to handle a saree elegantly. “The pleats must be perfect”, she warned me. It was a huge relief. My mother had accepted me for who I was.

From the moment I wore a saree, I knew that I was ready to show the world my interpretation of Maya – illusion. From Alex, the unrecognized, timid boy came alive the fierce Mayamma wearing a thick malayali accent under the arc lights. I started to wear more of black sarees with different colors because my mom loved wearing black saree. My mother believed in keeping it simple than being gaudy. To her, being simple was being beautiful. She made me realise the beauty in elegance. This inspired and helped me in building the character of Mayamma. When I created Maya, I was certain that Maya had to be elegant, just like my mother. I discovered that my inner diva would look simple and kind yet she would also be confident and vibrant as a person.  And that’s the reason I wanted Maya to wear kasavu saree, because she had to look elegant.

Photo credit: Saina Jaypal

Before I started performing as Mayamma, I had never bought a saree and didn’t know where to begin. The support that I got from the gay and transgender community has been enormous. At a Pride performance, I received tips on how to wear make-up, choose the right wig, blouses and sarees.

A friend of mine, who is a transgender, gifted me two Kerala sarees- a Kasavu with a tricolor border and the other a ‘Settu Mundu’ saree which is the traditional saree in Kerala. Mayamma wore the Kasavu for a performance and it was a hit. Since then, I have worn this saree for many performances, documentaries and photo shoots as Mayamma, and it remains special. Wearing the same Kasavu on this special occasion, I now wish you a very  hridhayam niranjnna Onashamsakal! Happy Onam!
All that said, I still go to my mother for fashion advice. Whenever I need advice on how Maya should look, I don’t hesitate to ask my mother because she is open to giving her critic on how Maya should look and what kind of sarees will look good on her. Whether we admit it or not, most of us grow up playing with our mother’s saree, draping it and watching ourselves in the mirror hoping to become as beautiful as our mothers. May be even become her!
Photo credit: Saina Jaypal
Author Profile:
Alex Mathew works as a communications officer in a NGO. He is also a performer, famously known as Maya The Drag Queen. He focuses on bringing about issues related to individualism, feminism and gender equality under the spotlight. Apart from that, he loves to entertain people in his spare time.

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