Saree sisters: Bonding over six yards of splendour
Saree enthusiasts from across the length and the breadth of the city and the NCR are connecting with other lovers of the garment through the social media. They organise saree meet-ups of 15 to 20 members regularly, and most groups are formed through Facebook, and are usually “closed” – requiring an interested enthusiast to request an invitation to become a part of the gathering.
Group members — “saree sisters” as they like to call themselves — discuss all things saree, from different types of the garment to different ways of draping it, reviving dying traditions and promoting saree artisans.
“I can’t think of a day I haven’t worn a saree, but my heart still skips a beat when I see a beautiful Baluchari or Jamdani,” gushes Meera Dutt, a city resident and a ‘saree sister’.
Dutt loves her sarees, but she loves talking about them even more. She is among the groups of women in Gurugram who regularly get together to showcase their latest six-yard acquisitions, discuss their intricacies and best of all, help keep sartorial traditions alive through one-onone interactions with weaver groups.
In the last couple of years, saree enthusiasts from across the length and the breadth of the city and the NCR have begun connecting with other lovers of the garment through the social media. They organise saree meet-ups of 15 to 20 members at a time on a monthly or fortnightly basis. Most groups are formed through Facebook, and are usually “closed”, requiring an interested enthusiast to request an invitation to become a part of the gathering.
Group members call each other “saree sisters” and discuss all things saree, from the different types of handlooms and textiles, to the different ways of draping, the dying traditions and what can be done to revive them and give an impetus to the artists practising these art forms. They bond over the garment and take their love for the saree beyond their wardrobes. Every meet-up is centred around a theme (Chanderi, Tussar, Kosa Silk), a draping style (for instance, Maharashtrian drape), or reviving and reclaiming certain styles.
Shakti Khanna, a mental health and social worker, and the co-founder and North India administrator of ‘The Saree Story’ says she started the group in 2016 to help weavers and enable women to share their love for handlooms, and bond over sarees. Today, the group has over 4,000 members who benefit from the meet-ups at Khanna’s house, where women from Gurugram, Delhi, Noida and Faridabad enthusiastically discuss the art form of saree making, its history and traditions.
“I fell in love with sarees watching my mother; she always wore a saree,” says Khanna, who travels across the country for work and makes it a point to pick up at least one saree from each place she visits. Her travels have not only made her wardrobe richer, but extended the bounty to the local weavers and artisans who create these treasures.
“In our saree meets, we try to make the weavers, the real artists, a part of our group. It helps them when they directly talk to their consumers and eliminate the middlemen, who reap away a large chunk of their profits,” she says.
She adds that if the saree group members are not able to bring weavers to the city, the group makes them a part of the meeting through Facebook and WhatsApp video calls. “Children of the artisans are often quite tech savvy and know how to use these new mediums,” she clarifies.
Khanna fondly remembers a saree meet in collaboration with an NGO, where artisans from Bikaner came down to explain Kashidkari. “It was a beautiful experience. They told us how selling directly to customers with the help of an NGO helped them to send their children to school for the first time.”
Like Khanna, many other residents, too, see these meetings as a platform to help weavers and revive dying art forms.
Neelima Kamrah, an educationist and resident of DLF Phase 2 who is a part of group Saree Speaks and Gurugram Saree Meets says, “Puja sarees are a beautiful type of saree from southern India that were worn by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Late Maharani Gayatri Devi. But despite finding favour within the rich and famous, they disappeared as demand dwindled. It’s only earlier this year, at a trade fair, that these sarees were showcased again. I discussed this at one of our saree meet-ups.”
Such is the impact of these meet-ups that after listening to Kamrah, every member of the group bought a Puja saree because, as Kamrah says, “The more we wear sarees, the more handlooms are restored and weavers are benefitted.”
While some groups are driven by the intent of protecting the art of saree making, others are purely driven by love for the garment. Nishtha Khurana, a chartered accountant and Sector 47 resident is a member of multiple Facebook saree groups. In March earlier this year, she started a group called Saree Meet-Up. When she first floated the idea on Facebook and received great response, she realised she wasn’t alone in her love for the saree.
Today, Saree Meet Up is an active WhatsApp group of 16 members and new enthusiasts are added with every meeting, once every two months, as existing members “can’t stop gushing about the group of like-minded individuals”. “Attending these meetings is sheer joy. We are a group of 16 people who are passionate about sarees. We follow a theme for each meet-up; the last one was Pochampally sarees,” Khurana says, adding that these meetings have given her so many new friends. “Sometimes, even four-five hours are not enough for us.”
Surprisingly, sarees were not always the first love for Khurana. “Earlier, I would spend hours choosing from western outfits, thinking about what to wear. It was only in 2012, when I had to take trainings for a corporate firm, that I started wearing sarees as I wanted to look more authoritative.” Khurana shares that as compliments started pouring in she grew more confident about carrying herself in the garment.
Chinna Dua, a Delhi-based radiologist and a saree connoisseur, likes attending saree meets in Gurugram “because of the love and warmth of my friends”.
A self-confessed chronic saree-wearer, Dua attributes the growing popularity of sarees to its innate versatility and charm. “Sarees are not ephemeral. Women across ages and body types look stunning in a saree. Few may swear by handlooms, the younger lot tend to prefers georgettes and chiffons owing to their simplicity.”
While the versatility, flexibility and charm of the sarees is unabashedly celebrated in these meet-ups, what they have also given rise to is a strong sisterhood of passionate women. They have transcended from being platforms for just discussing sarees to one where the members also deeply care for one another.
Astrologer and DLF Phase-3 resident Richa Shukla, says she has found some of her closest friends at the saree meeting. “In the saree meet-ups, we, the members are our biggest cheerleaders. One day I wore a white chiffon saree with a gajra and big jhumkas. I received so many compliments from my fellow saree sisters that day. I have never felt more beautiful.”
From refueling interest in the six yards, bringing together groups of diverse but passionate saree lovers, to taking up the weavers’ causes, these saree meetings in the city are becoming a delightful part of the city’s social calendar and spreading six yards of style and smiles.