Friday, July 24, 2015


Something’s abuzz in the city. the #100 sari pact. People are talking about it, yes both men and women. What is this sari pact? Does it have political overtones?  I thought I would demystify this phenomena !  The pact to craft activists like me is like  manna from heaven.  I have intensely regretted the fact that the sari is veering towards oblivion, regardless of the fact that the saree shops enjoy peaking sales during festivals and marriage seasons. I have been using any platform that I get to shout myself hoarse that the younger set should wear saris at least once in a way.
No one wants to wear saris anymore. Not just the next gen, but ammas and pattis. Inconvenient, they say to wear at home. Who wants to wear the flapping 6 yards with the inner trappings of an underskirt and a well fitted blouse?  So comfy to slip into that loose caftan, often termed nightie, or get into a beautiful salwar kameez. No worry about maintenance, starching and ironing if you happen to be a rigid cotton person like me…. I too am guilty of falling into the same trap, opting for comfort at home. The difference is that whenever I go out, I make it a point to wear a sarees, as I am making a statement.
Take a look around and you will find that most  maids come dressed in salwar kameezes.  Take a walk in the morning, and you see young women emerging  from slums wearing frilly nighties, with a babies  perched on their hips, or pumping water into buckets with gusto,  the wetness seeping right above their hemlines! I have made it a rule though, that  no maid of mine will report to work in a “nightie” as none of us lounge in these.
The pact began when two friends, Anju Maudgal Kadam and Ally Mathan were discussing the need to wear saris to save it from extinction. A casual conversation which morphed into a movement.  They made a pact to wear sarees at least a 100 times before the end of the year 2015. It didn’t matter what saree it was, or if it was the same saree worn a multiple times. They influenced their friends in other cities to join the pact as only young people can. That was the birth of the #100 saree pact which went viral, even international! The media was quick to pick it up, and the #100 saree pact was reported in the print media, radio and television.
This apart, the founders have saree dates, where like minded women, (even if they are not the saree wearing kind) meet at coffee shops or restaurants, wearing sarees of course. I was invited to the saree date meeting at Amethyst, and it was, for me an eye opener to feel the enthusiasm of the group of 15 or more. Each narrated a saree story, and it didn’t matter what saree, as long as it was one. Saree dates were organised all over the country, as well as in the UK and US! Getting the youth to start wearing this fabulous unstitched garment was to me a big step in keeping our traditions alive. I prayed this might not be a flash in the pan kind of thing.
I grabbed the opportunity to push this pact a little more, to widen its concept. Why not make a pact to wear handlooms? At least  60 times out of the 100?  I talked about the way the weavers laboured to hand weave one saree, and afterwards to locate a market when tradition collapsed in favour of bling. The response was very encouraging, and I promised to send them historical notes and point them in the direction of  where such gorgeous saris could be acquired. And yes even deliver a little talk with a power point presentation to drive home the point!
When did the saree actually arrive? This is a nebulous area, and one can only base it on conjecture. It could date back several centuries, when an old statue of a priest was unearthed from the Indus Valley Civilization where he is wearing a garment draped like a saree. It could be that the dhothi which is the oldest known garment that was draped marked the beginning of the saree.
There was this primordial  belief among ancient Hindus that the unstitched garment indicated purity. In fact even needles going through the fabric was considered  inauspicious. The ancient sculptures of goddesses indicated a nivvi or the pallu as we know it today. It was tied at the waist, covered the legs and spread out fan like in front as a decorative drape.
Author Soha Parekh who wrote a book on the saree, shares a folk tale with a charming poetical observation…which suggests that the sari was born on the loom of the weaver, who dreamt of a beautiful woman, and as he wove, “he captured the shimmer of her tears, the drape of her tumbling hair, the colours of her many moods and the softness of her touch and her exquisite grace…” He kept on working on the loom till the saree evolved.
Our country has such diverse cultures be it textiles, food or sarees. Every state has its own speciality, and has a heritage stamp of its own.
One question I have often been asked is, will the sari go into the annals of history as an obsolete, once favoured national garment like the kimono? A few years back I couldn’t answer the question.
Today with the saree pact going round, more youngsters are not just joining the pact but are an integral part of it, interested in knowing the history, the varieties, and filled with determination to bring about a great revival of this wondrous garment. I can now say with impunity, the saree is here to stay.
And to stretch it further, why not have a handloom saree day at our Club on one of the festival celebrations? That would ensure that with everyone, young or old wearing a saree are part of the #100 saree pact!

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