Chasing waterfalls in a block print saree

Cotton sarees with Ganesh tees and vans sneakers make for a great outfit to run up and down mountains …

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Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

I like chasing waterfalls, climbing cliffs by the sea, walking through deep rainforests, riding my bike in national parks, floating leisurely in backwaters … basically enjoying the world around me that isn’t constricted by concrete walls.

I have been told again and again that the photos I post are too removed from most people’s reality and sometimes it does make me stop and think. But I always come to the same conclusion, I don’t know how to be anyone else apart from me.

So if you want to follow my adventures, there will be a lot of curious exploration of the world around me, there will be innumerable photos of water bodies, heaps of animals and plants, there will also be a lot of mis-matched accessories and ambivalence regarding things that others may have strong opinions on.

I also get asked (often) if I only wear sarees. Here’s the thing, I wear whatever I feel like wearing on a given day. This blog is about wearing the six yards, so photos on this blog are of myself and other women wearing sarees. I also have another blog where I share my outfits that may or may not be sarees.

On the day these photos were taking we were running late and I had the last minute inspiration to take our mini super hero nephew waterfall chasing with us. I wanted to wear comfy track pants, an over size tee-shirt and comfy sneakers but I also felt like wearing a saree. So what did I do? I wore everything I just mentioned, all together.

The saree was thick enough for the pallu to be used as a scarf to protect against sudden gusts of winds on the way, it is a soft enough cotton that it survived hours in the car without looking like a wrinkly mess and I like the way it looks with the Ganesh tee.

I think the way one looks at life manifests in photos, I have always thought there is a bit of magic in the world and have never stopped looking for it. And I think it comes through in the photos we take and share, that as hard as it is sometimes, we would like to see beauty in this world.

We’re both hellbent on chasing our own kind of peace and happy while trying to drown out the negativity that surrounds everyone. Nobody’s life is perfect and ours is far from it but we’re just trying to find beauty where we can and engage with things plus people we love.

 

 

 

 

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Why mulmul block print sarees are great

I think mulmul sarees are a great place to start one’s six-yard journey

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IMG_2662Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

Mulmul is a fine cotton fabric, slightly heavier than the gossamer-thin muslin that India has been known for since ancient times.

I think the world of mulmul sarees, they are like that buttery soft, comfy tee-shirt you have had for years, hassle free and simple. I prefer my mulmuls to be hand block printed with the designs made using organic dyes and traditional techniques.

This blue mulmul DIY saree made from Jaipur hand block printed scarves and travelled with me to Europe this summer and is worn here with a Bandhani kediyu. These pictures were taken on a warm day when we spotted lovely violet flowers blooming in the middle of the forest in Picardie in France and wanted to get a bunch for home.

I think mulmul sarees are a great place to start one’s six-yard journey, especially if one is busy and can’t be bothered with heavy sarees that need a tonne of safety pins.

I have made a list of why I love these kinds of fabric and enjoy draping them as sarees regularly:

  1. They require hardly any maintenance, can be chucked in the washing machine, don’t need to be ironed if they are dried right and above all get better with wear.
  2. This light-weight fabric is a known summer staple but honestly, worn with the right things it is great for winter as well and is fabulous for travel.
  3. They are tremendously easy to drape, support various experiments and will make the messiest pleats look pretty.
  4. A lot of the indigenous block-print techniques use natural dyes that are better for one’s skin and general well-being.
  5. Depending on the kind of printing technique mulmul sarees come in various bright as well as sober hues of the colour spectrum, appealing to people with different colour sensibilities.
  6. You can dress them up or down, wear them to work or to a function, it all depends on how they have been accessorised. And I’ve worn them with both gold and silver jewellery.
  7. They are very easily available in most saree shops, government emporiums or independent boutiques.
  8. Depending on the amount of work these fabrics are priced to suit a range of budgets and can be bought by students for a pittance as well as connoisseurs of higher end designers.
  9. They come in a tremendous variety of patterns and prints from stripes, checks, geometric or floral to suit every design sensibility.
  10. You can get mulmul hand block prints from different states that look completely different from each other, for example: Kalamkari from Andhra, Ajrakh from Kutch, Vegetable prints from Dessa, Ahmedabad and Kutch, Saudagiri prints of Ahmedabad, all in Gujarat, Dabu, Bagru, Sanganeri block print from Rajasthan, Bagh from Madhya Pradesh etc.

I always have and I think I always will like clothing ethically made with handloom-ed, handcrafted natural fabrics in cuts that are breathable.

Having lived in India and elsewhere, I have a huge reverence for our traditional techniques of dyeing, weaving, stitching and embroidery that are still culturally relevant.

Artisan handicraft is still the second largest source of employment in India with an estimated 200 million workers at the core of the handicraft industry (Crafts Council of India, 2011).

I like clothing woven with stories, so when I am buying something that is handcrafted I am buying a slice of heritage handed down through generations.

And I find mulmul block prints even though the fabric may be power loom just ticks all the right boxes for me because of the efforts of the craftspeople who decorate the textile with their art.

Travel stories of a saree enthusiast

I don’t think travelling in sarees is a big deal at all, I have photos of my Mother and GrandMother both globetrotting in their stunning six yard beauties forming my earliest fashion inspirations and now I am just continuing the tradition.

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Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

The memories I have of travelling on my own, initially to university, then moving cities for work before eventually moving to a different continent, to now traipsing all over the world, all have sarees attached to them.

I remember carrying three sarees when I had to pack up my life and condense it to 40 kgs for my move to Australia. I don’t think travelling in sarees is a big deal at all, I have photos of my Mother and GrandMother both globetrotting in their stunning six yard beauties forming my earliest fashion inspirations and now I am just continuing the tradition.

When we travelled to Europe this summer, road tripping across the spectacular South of France, bumming around in Amsterdam before coming home to the countryside around Paris, I carried six sarees and was given one while I was there. If you have been following @dtanaya or @pleatsnpallu on instagram you have seen photos in realtime of my travel adventures in these sarees.

Although I carried half a dozen six yard beauties, I carried no underskirt or saree blouse as I absolutely don’t believe that they are needed especially when living out of a suitcase for weeks, flying budget airlines and dealing with the Paris metro. Every piece of clothing I carried could be worn with each other and I really don’t like matching separates.

In these photos I am wearing a chiffon leheriya saree from Jamnagar with a dabu print top and leather shorts at the lovely Château de Pierrefonds. It is a medieval castle at the edge of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris and the picturesque village with a lake in the centre is also very pleasant to explore.

Leheriya gets its name from the Hindi word for wave, ‘leher’ and is a tie & dye technique that produces ripple-like patterns. I have many many sarees in Bandhani as well as Leheriya and cannot get enough of them, this saree barely weighs anything and looks pretty even when its crushed (at least to me, I hate ironing clothes).

Sarees and travel both play an integral part in my stories so here’s to travelling the world one handcrafted saree at a time!

Handloom silk in the French countryside

I didn’t wait for a special occasion to bust out this silk loveliness and wore it to prance around a tiny village set in the picturesque French countryside, surrounded by sandstone cottages, miles and miles of fields and lush green forests.IMG_2555IMG_2565IMG_2567IMG_2595Photos: Vincent Boyer (Say hi on instagram @vincetravelbook)

For sometime a few stray comments (meant as compliments) have been weighing on my mind and I’ve been meaning express my thoughts on them but since we’ve been away I didn’t get around to doing so. However, this past week a video came to my attention and I found the reaction to the video appalling on many levels.

I won’t bore you with the details but it was a video about five women in India accepting a challenge to wear the saree to work for five days. Let’s just say they weren’t exactly pleased but what really surprised me was the rabid nastiness of the online response I saw.

Here were these grown women who extolled the virtues of wearing handcrafted sarees, trolling a bunch of young girls because they expressed discomfort at wearing something that we apparently MUST respect as our cultural attire! Not to mention the body shaming in the name of feedback. I was asked to write an opinion piece on it and I politely declined because I don’t understand why I should have an opinion in what another woman finds easy or hard to wear all day.

Here’s the thing, I love handcrafted, ethically made clothing, I love wearing handloom-ed sarees, I love learning about them, I collect them and most of all I feel comfortable in the folds of something that I’ve been given with love. The saree in the photos above is something that my Mother painstakingly picked out on an incredibly hot afternoon in Chennai because she knew I would love it.

I didn’t wait for a special occasion to bust out this silk loveliness and wore it to prance around a tiny village set in the picturesque French countryside, surrounded by sandstone cottages, miles and miles of fields and lush green forests. I used to be intimidated by stiff silks till I learnt not to try and tame them into shape with safety pins but to just wear them in my own messy way.

I get a lot of messages telling me people love that I am promoting wearing sarees, I would like to clarify that I am a saree enthusiast and I am not promoting any particular type of clothing. I share what I like not what I think someone else should like.

I also don’t think that telling me women look their best in a saree is a compliment. Women should wear whatever they want to wear and it is nobody’s business but their own, it is not my or anyone else’s place to tell anyone what constitutes appropriate attire.

My point is that I choose to wear whatever makes me happy, whether it is the skimpiest bathers, booty shorts, anarkali or torn jeans and a raggedly tee-shirt or a fabulous saree. I carried a bunch of sarees including this one on a trip to Europe because I knew I’d want to wear them at some point, I also carried a whole lot of other clothing. A peek at my personal instagram or blog will show you that my clothing preferences vary wildly from day to day.

Telling people what to wear implies that they can’t think/ choose for themselves, women don’t exist to satisfy someone else’s gaze, nothing outweighs her own autonomy over how she chooses to exist in the world and we definitely don’t need commentary on our bodies or clothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shibori saree in the rice fields of Bali

To each of us in the diaspora scattered across the globe the saree is living symbol of our connection with our identities, linking us to millions of women in the past and the present. Today we feature an expat Indian, the lovely eShmruthi in her shibori saree frolicking in the spectacular rice fields of Bali …

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Photos by Kannan: Say hi on instagram @kapturesbyk or on facebook 

Smruthi’s recent saree experiments started from a sudden urge to connect back to her roots. Having been born and brought up in Tamil Nadu, she moved abroad for her masters like many of us.

A dreamer and seeker by heart, she has always found herself pondering over the intricacies of life. She says, “Sometimes, the questions for why life happens in a certain way will remain unanswered but I obsess over Steve Job’s words that looking back we will all be able to connect the dots”.

Unlike many though, Shmruthi’s last five years were spent hopping between several countries including France, Belgium, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan for studies and work. She continues, “My quench for adventure and travel was fueled and I discovered a new side of me through these experiences. And somewhere along the way, as I was creating a new identity I got terrified of losing my real identity. Sarees are now my reassurance and connection to my real self, the one who grew up seeing my mom don one every day to work”.

And thus started her saree journey with a resolve to wear a saree at least once a week. She says, “My goal was to get comfortable in wearing this integral piece of my culture and be confident in owning it. I started wearing my sarees in Singapore to work, dinner with friends and of course temples”.

But the one occurrence where she surprised even herself was, when she wore a saree during her vacation in Bali. “My two passions – travel and sarees, coming together was an incredible feeling. It didn’t hurt that the pictures came out so beautiful too 😉 I am now daring enough to do this in my future travels too,” she enthuses.

Her advice for all strong, independent women living outside India who have this ache in your heart whenever they think of home is: “Give the #sareepact a chance. You will be surprised how much it will make you content and close to home. Just as it does for me!”

Connect with her on Instagram @shmruthi