So here I am, with my colleague Ambika Shaligram, tracking the 100 Saree Pact that came into being last March and the way ahead for the ubiquitous Indian drape.
Last year in March, two Bengaluru ladies, Ally Matthan, an entrepreneur, and Anju Kadam, who is into video production, decided to bring out their forgotten sarees from the closet and make it a part of their daily life instead of restricting them to special occasions.
They made a pact, to wear sarees at least 100 times in 365 days. They posted their photos with the saree number on Twitter, and were soon joined by hundreds of women, who loved the six yard but never really got around to draping it regularly. The 100 Saree Pact became a mini revolution embraced by not only women in India, but those who lived abroad too. Facebook groups, Saree Dates (like kitty parties) and with the celebration of the First World Saree Day on December 21, the pact has come a long way. We chat up with the founders, the Pune pacters, and a Ukrainian lady who is in love with the saree.
Over to Ally Matthan and Anju Kadam-
The highlight of the 100 Saree Pact was that every pacter got to share the “story” behind the saree she was wearing. “I don’t expect my favourite pair of trousers or a shirt to have a story, but, yes every saree has a story behind it and it’s amazing to listen to it,” says Kadam, adding that saree lovers and pacters in different cities and states participated in Saree Dates to share their stories.
In the year ahead, Kadam and Matthan now want the saree weavers to share their stories. “The hard work the saree-makers put into the weaving, especially handloom sarees, never translates into money. That’s how the concept of pop-ups was born. I am working with some weavers and NGOs to encourage women to hold pop-ups in their homes, so that sarees can be bought directly from the weavers,” explains Matthan about their new 100 Saree Project.
The charm never fades-
Savani Laddha first heard of the pact from her school friend in Mumbai, Priya Kadappa Shah. She was tagged by Shah on FB posts, but didn’t take the pact seriously till July. “I was intimidated by the number and thought it was an impossible task. In July, there was Eid celebration in office, so I decided to wear a saree. That started off. I took pictures and then started tagging friends and later Anju Kadam and Ally Matthan. And, by December I had completed the pact,” grins Laddha, a CA by profession.
The festive season — Shravan, Bhadarapad, Navratra and Diwali — provided the necessary impetus to Laddha, who was soon joined by her neighbours in the housing society.
Her friend, Anu Pazhayannur, who completed the pact in January, says, “I am a teacher, so I would wear a saree to school. But it was not a regular affair. After I joined the pact, I increased the frequency to two or three times a week. We kept encouraging each other.
Our friends and colleagues would often ask, ‘So, at which number are you on?’ At every milestone, we partied or celebrated with friends. For instance, we all dressed in Kasavu sarees (known as Kerala sarees), wore gajras and then dined at a South Indian restaurant when I reached the target.” But why did saree-wearing take a backseat?
“I won’t say it’s a cumbersome affair. But sari is an elegant garment, so everything else — your hairdo, make-up has to be perfect! It’s not like pairing a t-shirt with denims,” says Laddha. “A lipstick is a must when you are wearing a saree!” chimes in Pazhayannur. In the course of the pact, the duo reaffirmed their love for silk sarees.
“My mum was from Belgaum, so I have a deep and abiding love for South silk, especially Kanjeevaram. I wore sarees borrowed from my mum and granny. For my 100th saree, I wore my granny’s Navwari (nine yard),” adds Laddha, who shared her story and nuggets associated with every saree that she wore on FB.
Pazhayannur too wore silks bought from Chennai. “I discovered that I have less sarees in shades of orange. And, I think I need one Banarasi saree,” she adds. Even after the pact ended, they have been wearing sarees, but not posting pictures.
Sujata Mane, who hosted Pune’s first Saree Date, enjoyed the meet. She says, “Obviously, we were all wearing sarees, some in Navwari style, some in Gujarati style, some in Kerala sarees… inspite of the diversity, we all clicked on a personal level and the common bond.”
The 52-year-old also attended the World Saree Day celebration held by Kadam in Bengaluru in December. “It was fun socialising with women who are crazy about the six yard,” she concludes.
Sanjana Jog, an army wife who has lived in many parts of India thanks to the postings of her husband, she was able to buy sarees from all parts of India. She also found numerous occasions to wear, since women generally wear sarees in all formal functions in the Army.
Across the seas-
Lyuba Johnson, who grew up in Ukraine watching Bollywood movies, has always been fascinated with this Indian drape.
“The first time I tried it on, the result was ‘scary’. I went though numerous YouTube videos — they went too fast — and finally decided that the best way would be to just drape it,” says Johnson, who can now drape a saree as flawlessly as any Indian woman.
Earlier, Johnson’s biggest reservation about wearing a saree was if it meant disrespecting the Indian culture. But soon she realised that there was no better way of winning an Indian’s heart than flaunting a saree!
Johnson, who now lives in US, buys her sarees online, and has now found an Indian store to get her blouses custom-made.
This article first appeared in Sakal Times Pune edition dated March 17, 2015. All photos have been sourced from the Pact members.