Auckland women glorify sartorial elegance of the Saree

Auckland women glorify sartorial elegance of the Saree

A unique meeting of ‘Saree Speak’ becomes a Traffic Stopper in Remuera

Supplied, Edited Content

Auckland, January 10, 2019

Of all the dress materials worn by women in the world, the Indian Saree is unique in that it is the only garment that could be worn by any person, anytime, anywhere.

It also remains the only garment that would conform to any cultural, age or income group in India and the rest of the world; and worn to preserve the traditional values of a religion or society or reflect the modern trend of exhibitionism and glamour.

The saree is tailored as costume by performers of Indian classical dances, including Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi. Such costumes can be worn generally by the person for whom they are specifically made.

Organisers Bindu Handa and Bavani CT Suresh

Special Day for Special Women

January 5, 2019 was a Special Day for 24 women in Auckland, Aotearoa.

The day dawned a little more beautiful, a little sunnier, a little breezier, as if the heavens were smiling in anticipation of an unfolding meeting. The quiet, leafy suburb of Remuera too appeared unaware of Sasi Indiran bustling about at ‘Sahana,’ her Restaurant, to cater to this exotic meet.

Sasi Indiran, host of the event at her ‘Sahana Restaurant’ on Remuera Road

The women assembled  at 2 pm, draped in exotic sarees from the diverse regions of the Indian subcontinent, beautiful in their timeless elegance and simplicity.

And what a coming together it was! Some of them did not know each other, but were united in their love for the simple, yet stunning stretch of material, the Saree. 

The Saree Speak Sakhis: Traffic Stoppers on Remuera Road

Among them were Anusha Suresh, Bavani Suresh, Bhargavi Kotte, Bindu Handa, Charul Shah, Jyoti Raj, Kanchana Mala Reddy, Kanika Diesh, Kirithika Kiki, Kishori Telang, Madhuri Yamineni, Manasi Chivate, Meena Kalyanpur Basrur, Melanie Jeyakumar, Mumtaj Agarbattiwala, Neelam Sajwan Rawat, Ravika Java, Santhriga Kannan, Sasi Indiran, Sneha Indiran, Urvashi Shinde, Varu Iyer, Vasu Moses and Vindhya Suresh.

Facebook Friends

The women are members of a Facebook Group ‘Saree Speak,’ launched by Vini Tandon Keni of Goa in Western India with a simple but empowering vision.

Ms Keni said that she started the Group mainly to inspire herself to wear sarees regularly, thereby setting an example for others, transcending barriers of religion, politics, race, caste, creed.

The ‘Saree Speak’ members are fondly referred to as ‘Saree Sakhis.’ 

The afternoon get together, called, ‘Auckland New Zealand Saree Speak Meet,’ was initiated by Bavani Suresh, who, after scrolling down the ‘Saree Speak Page’ (on Facebook) and noting the many meets occurring worldwide, decided to post a question to women in Auckland for a ‘Saree Speak Meet’ during the Christmas/New Year break. 

It triggered a wave of response, leading to the special gathering.

Bavani liaised with Bindu Handa, another member, and together they met with ‘Saree Speak Sakhi’ venue owner Sasi Indiran. The rest was easy.

Saree anecdotes were amusing

Anecdotes galore

The Meeting began with Registration and a Photo Shoot in front of the ‘Saree Speak’ logo. The women were then ushered to their tables, identified by different sarees.

Bavani initiated the event with a welcome speech, then went on to some hilarious icebreakers – two truths and one lie : some ladies professed to have two husbands and had co-piloted airplanes😅. And yes, there were pilots, scuba divers, snorkelers and multilingual women, but no polygamists 😜. 

Each Sakhi then described her Saree with a lovely anecdote to make it her own.

Innovative Games

Following lunch, the women engaged themselves in innovative games, a Facebook personality version of ‘Guess Who,’ in which they were asked to guess the  name of the ‘Saree Speak Sakhi’ and the Saree, followed by a Saree Draping Contest.

Each group had to drape a Bengal Athpourey, Madurai Pinkosu, Kerala Namboothiri, and a Gujarati style on a member of the Group, amidst much retying and laughter. 

Remuera Road erupted into a wild frenzy of unrestrained colour as the Sakhis trooped out and onto the street, stopping traffic whilst posing for group shots and videos. 

Multiple Choice Quiz

Later, all heads were down as they navigated an informative multiple choice quiz prepared by Varu Iyer. Amidst sips of Masala Chai, Chennai Coffee, sighs and candid remarks, the Sakhis learnt wefts and warp, types and regions.

Then, they had a hoot with the ‘Saree Speak’ version of ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey,’ that is, ‘Pin the Saree on the Indian Map.’ Blindfolded, a group member had to pin the Saree onto the correct state, whilst group members could only hint ‘Hot’ or ‘Cold.’

Occasional whispers of ‘Upper,’ ‘Kizhe’ (down), ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ were heard, with chiding from other Sakhis but there was significant camaraderie.

Saree Draping Contest Group 1: Kanchana Mala Reddy, Urvashi Shinde in Bengal Athpourey drape, Manasi Chivate, Madhuri Yamineni
Saree Draping Contest Group 2: Kirithika Kiki, Neelam Sajwan Rawat in a Gujarati drape, Kishori Telang, Charul Shah, Varu Iyer, Melanie Jeyakumar
Saree Draping Contest Group 3: Meena Kalyanpur Basrur, Jyoti Raj, Bhargavi Kotte (in Madurai Pinkosu drape), Bindu Handa.
Saree Draping Contest Group 4: Vasu Moses, Mumtaj Agarbattiwala (in Kerala Namboothiri drape), Santhriga Kannan, Ravika Java, Kanika Diesh.

More games had been planned which the Sakhis can look forward to at their next meet. They left with their hearts filled with joy, friendships made, having put faces to names and sarees to Sakhis.

The women are now brimming with ideas about the next meet: an open air picnic setting? A Saree Exhibition? Watch This Space!

Women keen on joining the Group may do so on the Facebook Page of Bavani CT Suresh or contact her through ‘Messenger.’ The Auckland Group is expected to hold its next meeting in March or April 2019.

-With Reporting by Bavani Suresh, who loves anything remotely musical and artistic. An Adaptive Technology Communications Instructor at the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, she is a ‘Vainika,’ (Volunteer). Teacher and a Musician.

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