“We wanted to show that neither the lockdown nor exercising in a sari is a hindrance to physical fitness,” says Jaseena Backer who founded FB group Saree In Style(SiS), in 2016. Its 12,000 members from across the globe manoeuvred the isolation of COVID-19 lockdown in a unique way, which included exercising in a sari. Rasmi Sarat Pillai from Fazilka in Punjab wore the Kerala handloom and practised the martial art, Kalaripayttu, while Dipta Krisham in US skipped nimbly in a georgette.
The members decided that the homebound period should be more than “tripping over dance videos” and “crawling over cookery shows” on social media. Jaseena, operating from her village Tanur in Malappuram district of Kerala got together with Preeti Madhusoodan from Dubai , moderator of the group, and planned the way forward.
“Being a psychologist I knew the lockdown was likely to bring in new uncertainties and emotional imbalances among the women. So I kept member’s mental well being as the prime focus,” says Jaseena pointing out that all activities were planned around their common love for the six yards.
Bonding over sari
On day one of the lockdown they organised “Tea Time Talk” and discussed the changes the lockdown would bring about. “It felt like a morning discussion at a coffee shop which was intended to let the members know that we are all in it together,” says Jaseena.
Priya Kamath, moderator for the month of April, introduced weaves of Telangana and Andhra saris through videos to create an awareness on the handlooms of the two States. It resulted in members buying saris online of weavers who were finding it difficult to retail in the lockdown.
On World Earth Day, Dipta moderated “SiS Prakriti” in which a sari wearing competition was held. A member who chooses to be anonymous sponsored a handloom Banhati sari of Karnataka and a Kutch embroidery bag. “This was to support the weavers from Karnataka and Kutch,” says Jaseena. Saristas ((sari clad members), as the members call themselves, showcased how they help preserve the earth through activities like micro bead replacing techniques, mulching, using cloth sanitary napkins, OPOS method of cooking, fuel efficiencies, cloth bag usage, firewood cooking in earthen pots and many more.
To support the artisans of Kashmir the group held a quiz/knowledge segment, “Kaarigari from Kashmir” organised by Resmi, Preeti and Jaseena. Rasmi wore saris with Kashmiri embroidery like ari, sozni and tilla, explaining their weave and art
The must-do therapeutic visit to the beauty parlour was missed during lockdown. To pamper themselves the women organised a session where they talked about home made face packs they used during the period. “ We posted pictures of ourselves dressed in saris with natural face packs made from organic ingredients used. It was our TLC (tender loving care) segment where we took before after face pack look photographs,” says Jaseena.
Beat the heat
A May activity was wearing saris that matched the colour of the natural smoothies they made. The idea was sparked off from the much missed visit to juice shops during summer months to beat the heat.
Jaseena says she encourages members to don a sari and post a related story. She makes it a point to wear the sari thrice a week during lockdown. Her latest story of wearing a green border gadwal sari is symbolic of the next generation’s acceptance of the LGBT community. “Green stands for the green signal to move ahead with inclusion,” says Jaseena.
Some of their earlier important activities celebrating the garment have been a fashion show in Kochi where two transpersons walked the ramp wearing silk saris. Jaseena wore a Banarsi and walked on the runway with her hijab clad mother in an upadda, Rekha Agarwal draped a Paithani and walked alomg with her house help in a handloom set-mundu. A wheel chair bound member showcased her sari wheeling herself on the ramp. In 2016 , 21 members wore georgettes and pochampallis, Banarasi and chiffons on sandunes in Dubai, while the US members made a statement by wearing and posing on the snowy landscape of their parks and gardens.
“All our events, live and virtual, are in saris; it’s like a uniform we love to wear,” says Jaseena stressing on the rules they abide by. “Our sari photos have to be new pictures, not older than ten days, that’s how we promote the sari.”