What started as a pact between two friends has evolved into a huge movement to bring back into the spotlight an age old tradition in India. A fading away tradition which thanks to these two women, has been put back into the spotlight. The tradition of wearing a saree.
For the uninitiated, a saree is one long piece of seamless cotton or silk cloth (typically 6 yards but can be as long as 9) which is draped in the most elegant manner. The style in which it is draped differs depending on the different parts of India, but they all tell a story of style, grace, and femininity. It is the traditional attire for Indian women which dates back to 2500 BC. Exposing the midriff and accentuating the curves of a woman, to me it is the most sensuous attire.
In under four months, Anju Maudgal Kadam and Ally Matthan from Bangalore, India, have managed to inspire Indian women from all over the world to look a little deeper into their wardrobe. As two professional women wrapped up in the world of modernization and rapid urbanization, they found themselves longing to wear their sarees which were simply burning holes in their closets. They decided to make an agreement to wear 100 sarees by the end of 2015. This meant atleast 2 – 3 sarees a week. Before they knew it some of their friends and families joined in. And then some more. Thus began the 100SareePact on March 1st.
Although the intention was not to start some kind of a saree campaign, Indian women from all over the world have embraced the idea and are following suit. Anju and Ally invited women to use the saree as a medium to tell a story. They felt that everyone, be it a man or woman who has ever been to India must have a saree story to share. A story about the weave or its origin. About a fond memory or something emotional. About its purchase or simply the experience.
A walk through their website reveals a wonderful collection of happy, funny, memorable, sad and sometimes odd stories. It is a brilliant collection of women, all sharing similar experiences and connecting through their love of sarees despite coming from very different parts of the country. It reminded me of the concept of, Unity in Diversity.
While our parents and grandparents still to date continue to wear a saree on a daily basis, for many of us it is only something we unveil for festivals and big functions. The saree is seen as a more elaborate piece of clothing and not really a day-to-day wear. I will admit that I’d rather be running behind my children in a pair of jeans than in 9 yards of cloth. But every so often I pull out that suitcase filled with different weaves, designed with gold or silver threads. Sometimes embellished and sometimes embroidered. But mostly plain, beautified by the colors alone.
Being from the southern part of India, Tamil Nadu to be specific, I was always surrounded by women draped in soft cotton or rich and intricately designed silk. Anyone who visits here cannot go back home without a Kanjeevaram silk saree added to their collection. Having married into the northern part of India, I have been introduced to the lovely Banarasi sarees whose designs reflect the ancient Mughal influences. As well as the very elegant Lucknowi Chikankari sarees. It would be a nearly impossible task for me to differentiate between the varieties of cotton, silk and others out there. But over time I have certainly grown to appreciate them all and have even gained confidence with some.
I am left thinking of my grandmom and aunts back in India who subconsciously sign a 300+ saree pact deal every year. Cupboards filled with rainbow colors and each with a story tightly folded in. The red wedding saree, the checked cotton saree received for a birthday, the green temple design saree worn on some trip, and so on. To them it is effortless, comfortable and defines their style in a way I could not admire more. I would be lying terribly if I said that I could pull off a 100 saree pact. Maybe a 10 pact is more attainable for me. But whenever I do don a saree, one thing is guaranteed – a few “Oohs” and “Ahhs” are in store.