Saree is the fabric that instantly connects me to the core of my being. Worn by generations of women before me, when I am in the presence of women who drape them, I feel right at home.
Growing up in Southern India, Saree was the everyday attire. I saw women in my household, my community, and the larger society leans on. However, that drastically changed migrated well over two decades ago. Like many migrant women, I have gone through a roller-coaster relationship in finding the right balance in assimilating into the new country while holding onto my roots. So, wearing Sarees became relegated to the odd occasions. That was until I got introduced to Saree Enthusiasts, an online community of women who share the love of Sarees.
Saree Enthusiasts are a community of women from the Indian Subcontinent who collectively believe that every Saree has a tale to tell. Thus began my long journey to know more about the group and join the group, and therefore I became a self-professed fan of the community. Then, again, a series of fortunate incidents led me to meet the co-founders Shirley Jacob and Preeti Gupta. By this time, I had ventured on the journey of founding Mindkshetra, creative arts mental health studio.
They were planning their Annual Saree Meet, and I wanted to be involved, and I did in the role of a sponsor. This was mid-June 2021. As the theme of the annual Meet was centred on Mental Health, our mutual vision seemed to align. As a creative art therapist, who advocates community art activities to foster connections, I pitched the idea of developing group artwork using Saree as our canvas. The analogy being more than ever, Covid made it evident that the fabric of our community is influenced by every individual’s contribution, with our individual lives heavily impacted by collective decisions. We wanted to create an art piece that symbolised that and celebrates that sense of connection and community spirit.
However, after a few initial postponements, the event finally took place. Just like how a smell of home has the magical ability ‘memory trigger’ when I encounter anyone wearing a saree, they tend to remind me of the Patti’s, Atthai’s, Chitti’s, Mami’s, Akka’s and Snehidi’s, and I left behind a decade ago. So, you can only imagine my delight when I walked into a room with a brigade of them.
I must confess here, being an introvert at heart, I felt like a fish out of water. However, as if sensing my unease, intuitively, each of them took the first step to lean in, greet me and hug me. There is often this stereotype that when a group of women meet, it is most often for vanity, meaningless pleasure.
“Indulgence” is what it is titled. I realise now it is often uttered as a remark minimise the experience.
To them, I will say, Indulge we did, with pleasure and with purpose. To have meaningful conversations and build new connections.
Indulge we did; to raise awareness about mental health. To congratulate Pritika Desai, a young mental health advocate who founded “Shout out”.
Indulge we did; to make our mark on beloved six yards. To symbolise how intricately woven we all are in this fabric called community
When I was still a naïve little maiden, a young nineteen-year-old, she came into my life.
When I met her for the first time, I held her tight as she hails from the land where I made my childhood memories. Kolkata, Bengal Cotton is her weave name.
She holds a special place in my heart, as she symbolises the carefree days spent frolicking with my cousins, of lazy summers, long strolls, eating Puchka’s, tasting Misti Doi’s from street vendors down the road.
She was a wanderlust who had travelled and lived in three continents, a constant in my life even when change became the only constant.
For this reason, I chose her to be the fabric, foundation, and canvas upon which to render the collaborative design.
A delicate weave she is, a sensitive one, who can crease easily even after diligent hours spent to iron her folds. For this reason, many refrain from wearing her on special occasions.
The crux of Mindkshetra is to nurture life stories using creativity.
We (Preeti Di, Shirley & I) chose it especially for this attribute! What better way to showcase that no matter how much one tries, no one can go through this journey called life untouched or perfect. Experiencing life means accepting the folds and creases that we accumulate along our journey and being proud of the path we have taken.
Our life on earth is fleeting and our intentions and actions do leave an imprint on the canvas beneath as the legacy we leave behind for our next generation.