Conversations about sarees is a hot topic these days. There are a number of Facebook groups propagating the beauty of the saree and the beauty of a woman draped in a saree. Women, especially from the sub-continent, from all walks of life, and those living away from India in particular, love the idea of posting their photos draped in beautiful sarees and thus staying connected to their culture and their heritage. Videos of women doing rare feats in a saree, like somersaults, running, driving a truck, a bus or a tractor, dancing in various locales are all common sights on social media. There is a charm in the saree that draws ladies together and this connection is strong and lasting. A few years ago, a movement started where ladies in various parts of the world began catching up in sarees and social media gave them ample chances to celebrate themselves in their sarees.
Saree, though a much-revered garment is also looked down upon by certain sections of the community, much like some women are. Some view the saree as an unglamorous garment, something draped by older women who were called ‘aunties’, and aunties are not considered fashionable. My first endeavour was to bring a change in that mindset, and I am glad to see that there has been a shift as ladies are choosing to drape sarees to various themed parties and functions. Another obstacle was the north- south divide. There was one section of women who saw saree as a garment worn by women from the southern states of India. Pleasingly there has been a shift there too. It gives me immense joy when I hear that I have motivated many women to drape sarees and have helped bring this beautiful garment back into fashion in Sydney.
Through my saree stories I established an interest in sarees across a number of social media channels. Ladies began identifying me with the saree and vice versa. And I saw an opportunity to do something more than just catching up in sarees once in a while and posting photos on Facebook. I saw a potential where this saree camaraderie, which had slowly shaped itself into a saree sisterhood could be used as a platform for women empowerment. And just like that the Saree Club was born. The initial months were about building a rapport and in order to enable that monthly catchups were planned. But as this practice began to warm up, Covid came knocking. But I was determined to keep these meet- ups going and like everything else we moved from in-person meetups to virtual catchups. I introduced themes and games to keep these engagements exciting. And as we got to know each other better, our level of comfort with each other improved and organically a warm, safe and non-judgemental platform was created where the ladies not only shared their saree stories, but also exchanged ideas and engaged in meaningful conversations. It became a platform that brought a breath of fresh air to the otherwise mundane Covid affected lifestyle.
As the restrictions slowly eased, picnics were organised in open spaces maintaining social distancing. Covid, though was socially isolating, brought the ladies of the Saree club together. Ladies who were new migrants forged new friendships within the club. The club became a symbol of celebration of womanhood and everything that came with it. Through the regular interactions, ladies became confident, and it was very heart-warming to see some of them who had never faced an audience before engaging in public speaking and other cultural activities. It was an enriching experience for all, the participants and the audience alike. In the past 2 years (since the lifting of the restrictions), the Saree Club has organised events that celebrated friendships and relationships. There was a Diwali celebration in 2020, Mother’s Day celebrations and International Women’s Day celebrations in 2021 and 2022. The participation and involvement of the ladies evolved and grew and seeing value in this sisterhood, they also invited their friends to join. The Mother’s Day 2022, saw sons and daughters joining their mothers in the celebrations. They enjoyed the day so much that they are now eagerly waiting for the 2023 celebrations. The 2022 International Women’s Day celebration created an awareness and started a dialogue. People sat and up and recognised the emergence of the Saree Club. 2022 also saw the first Saree Club publication. “Swadisht Yaadon Ka Safar”, a walk through the Indian culinary memory lane, that featured hearty and close to the heart recipes from the members. These were recipes that evoked memories and were extremely special. As a club we also supported the High Tea that was organised to raise funds for the Harman Foundation and the Pink Ribbon breakfast. We hosted Australia’s Biggest Morning tea and raised a whopping $10,000 to support the excellent work done by Cancer Council Australia.
The members of the club continue to stay in touch through the monthly catchups and stories. Our discussions include, and are not limited to personal and professional development, parenting tips, cooking ideas and kitchen tips and tricks, hobbies, etc. The various topics keep us engaged and encourage us to think outside the box. We learn from each other’s experiences, and everyone has something to offer. The ages of our cohort ranges from a ripe 60 plus something to a young 30 plus something! Our members include company CEOs, heads of operations and education, senior HR professionals, doctors and therapists, IT professionals, enterprising and successful entrepreneurs, budding and experienced professionals and homemakers. We are a conglomerate of talented ladies with a common love for the saree. We are simple, stylish and sophisticated, yet grounded with abundant respect for each other.
2023 brings yet another new chapter in the evolution of the Saree Club. We have some grand plans. We started the year with our Facebook presence. Do ‘Like’ our page and stay connected with us. Also do check out our Instagram handle and YouTube channel. Through our website (which is currently under construction) we intend to connect people with various services. Watch our space on social media for all our upcoming programs.
“Saree Club – More than a six-yard-long connection where empowered women, empower women”.