Stories are tumbling out of wardrobes these days. Happy, sad, funny, nostalgic and quirky stories, all straight from the heart. Many women are rummaging through their wardrobes in search of those tales. Each saga comes wrapped in six yards of material woven in looms in different corners of India.
Thanks to an inspirational idea that was unwrapped by Bengaluru-based friends Ally Matthan and Anju Maudgal Kadam, the sari has become a medium for narrating anecdotes, mostly by women, age no bar. The fabric of this great Indian story is woven by women who have worn a sari at some point in their life.
The threads of the story began in a conversation between two friends who were wondering of ways to wear the saris that they, like many of us, hoarded in their wardrobes but seldom wore.
“At present, there are many of us who wear saris only during a festival. The saris remain in the cupboard during the rest of the year, unworn and unseen. That was when we hit upon an idea. We decided to wear a sari on 100 occasions in 2015. That was our pact,” says Ally.
Then Anju and Ally had a brainwave. They decided to invite friends and friends of friends to join in the pact. All that they had to do was send in snaps of them or their relatives or friends wearing a sari accompanied by a little tale about the sari they were wearing. Thus was the #100sareepact begun on March 1.
And the photographs and accompanying accounts have come from all kinds of places. People dug up albums, old saris and memories to write about their kinda sari. While some linked their saris to special occasions, others wrote about memories that a sari evoked. While some highlighted the design and weave of their saris, others recalled the places and the people who were connected to that sari.
For some it was about legacy and heirlooms; for some it was about feelings, emotions, sentiments…the way they felt while wearing a particular sari. Graduation day, weddings, birthday gifts, anniversaries, a pick-me-up sari to get over a divorce, bangle ceremonies…. The anecdotes open many doors to Indian life, culture, traditions and more. It takes readers and viewers into the hearts and hearths of Indian homes and lives.
“For many of us, saris and moms go together. We remember our mothers, the special saris she used to favour, her usual attire, the aroma of her saris, the feel of the texture… Saris evoke memories, some odd, some comic, some sad but all memorable. We invited women to use the sari as a medium to tell us a story. It could be a story about the sari you are wearing, about its weave, its design, the tale behind its purchase, the special occasion it was worn… there are so many. The basic idea was to revive elegant dressing,” says Anju.
Hundred saris a year involves wearing a sari at least twice a week. The friends add that it is not the ostentation value of a sari or its pedigree that matters but the fact that women are wearing it and enjoying the process of draping themselves in six yards of style.
In the process, some of their friends also stumbled upon archival photographs and articles on many pioneering women who went about their tasks in saris, including women pilots, doctors, teachers, socialites and so on.
“Also, I am a story teller. So it doesn’t stop there. An instance, a memory, something quirky, or just how you are feeling wearing it. Tell us your story by hash tagging the post #100sareepact and tagging us,” writes Ally in her post.
Before they could say sari, their Facebook page was packed with photographs of women wearing saris of all kinds and in different drapes.
“For those who don’t wear saris, men and women, the sari is most definitely part of your psyche too. Tell us stories related to saris that you remember from your life and the women in it. Add a photo,” writes Anju.
The duo say they can’t wait to see their Facebook each day to see the narrative that women are weaving together.
“There are common threads running through the sharing, and that commonality, of belonging to a narrative that unfolds, has been our most delightful discovery…There is something magical taking place here,” writes Ally.
They add that wearing a sari is also talking about colours, beliefs, prevailing prejudices, complexions and many other nuances that make up the warp and weft of our lives.
If Aparna Ponnappa wore her sari in the Coorgi way (Kodvathi Podiya) to wow her audience for a talk, Deepta Vivekanand went back to her collection of vintage snaps of her family to put up photographs of her grandaunts and aunts in their saris. The women participating in the pact are also on a journey of personal discoveries about their women folk.
Ally and Anju plan to archive and document these stories and snaps in a website http://www.100sareespact.com that is being built.
As the pact goes viral the friends are thrilled that the sari is the centrepiece of the conversation.
“We are not selling saris or jewellery. All we want to do is see the sari being worn by more people,” says Anju.
So have you found your story in your wardrobe? Then sent it in with your photograph and tag two of your friends to encourage them to begin too. Catch Ally and Anju @100sareepact, @maudgalkadam, @ahalyamatthan on twitter.
The author of this article is Sarawathy Nagrajan