So far, my experience buying sarees had been limited to going thrice to some of the big shops in Hyderabad. You go in, sit on a chair in front of a long table, and a salesman gets sarees out one after the other.
In Varanasi, thanks to my friend and her numerous connexions all over India, I discovered a new way of shopping for sarees.
First, you take off your shoes and enter a big room where the whole floor is covered with white mattresses. You sit against bolster cushions, drink chai or sweet-and-salt lime water, and a man brings saree after saree after saree until the mattresses around you have beautiful piles shimmering with bright colored silks.
The salesman will even model the saree for you, as seen below.
And yes, I brought two home… Souvenirs, you know.