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Saree Is A Source Of Strength And Self-Expression For Researcher Nikaytaa From Pune

  • IWB Post
  •  October 1, 2018

Free, bold, versatile, gender fluid are many aspects of the saree that are yet to be explored. Bringing all of these aspects out of the can is researcher Nikaytaa from Pune. 

Once shying away from wearing a saree, she now wears it daily with different drapes. Working as a freelance Impact Assessment Consultant, she also runs her brand Indian Draping Company, that basically is an anthology, researching about the saree. She also takes workshops to teach about it.

In an enlightening conversation with Nikaytaa, we learned that the saree is not only a way to express herself but is also a source of strength for her. In fact, she grabs one of her nani or mom’s sarees when life takes a toll on her.

Read excerpts from the conversation:

Nikaytaa, take us back to the first time you wore a saree. 

The first time I wore a saree was when I was about 5 or 6 years old. So, basically, my younger sister and I were playing where I roleplayed as a librarian wearing mom’s saree. Now, we’ve always seen a library where Gandhi’s photo is hung on a wall and often with a garland on it. To make it a real setup we put a garland on our mother’s picture. And, when she walked in, she took minutes to understand why her daughters were being this cruel to her.

OMG! Hahaha. Reminds me of the scene from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. (A total Bollywood keeda)

The first time was a part of childhood games but now you wear the six-yard everywhere and anywhere. Tell us more about this.

I learned to wear the saree after I got married. And, somehow, I have always had a love-hate relationship with it up until I found out it can be worn without petticoat and blouse and in so many drapes. The total love relationship with saree started after I took up the 14-day challenge to get perfect at wearing the Nivi drape. After the 14 days got over, I felt satisfied and felt, “I have finally arrived.”

Since then you have explored so much about the drape – its history, the different draping styles, origin, everything. Which is the one current narrative about the saree that is missing in India?

The age-old ideology around saree needs to reform. We need to realize that we’re still holding onto the 100 years old idea about the drape. The common saree drape – Nivi – is not the traditional saree today, it is a 100 years old ideology. In fact, if we see, blouse and petticoat were never really part of our drapes. They were gradually added for Indian women to fit in the social circles to abide by how the British saw their women – head to toe covered. One needs to wear other drapes to feel the freedom what our ancestors felt.

Thank you for the guesses folks! @mrooverino got it right by guessing it has to be a Saree 😬 and that’s true! The pants and the scarf are both part of the ensemble that is the Saree! I wanted to wear this gorgeous simple saree that I picked up from @be.you.tiful2013 :) I love the stripes at the border and the color pop of the orange! I wore it on a sunny yet Windy day for breakfast at @thefrontporchsf , (a must try if you haven’t already). I paired the Saree with my favorite black sweater and made a scarf from the Pallu to guard my neck against the wind. 😀 #SareeFriends

54 Likes, 8 Comments – Nikaytaa (@nikaytaa) on Instagram: “Thank you for the guesses folks! @mrooverino got it right by guessing it has to be a Saree 😬 and…”

So, how do you wish the saree to be represented in India?

I want it to be represented as it is – one of the most fluid, versatile, and androgynous styles that ever existed. How it was before the British arrived – functional and genderless.

Speaking of genderless, elaborate more on the saree’s unisex aesthetics.

Saree’s gender-fluid characteristic actually plays a big role in feminism. There are so many different styles of drapes that can be worn by men. It’s comfortable, it’s breezy, and it holds our true traditions. The thing is we need to bring equality in clothes as well if we want feminism to work completely. Men are ridiculed when they wear women’s clothes but we are not when we wear theirs.

A point to be given more thought to, definitely. Coming to the various styles of drapes that you have now mastered, tell us about the drape that you took time to learn?

It’s the Venuka Gundaram drape. I learned the drape when I trained under Rta Kapur Chisti, researcher and author of ‘Sarees of India’ – one of the most comprehensive books on the history and evolution of the garment in India. And, now I find it so easy and it is my favourite too.

“I can hear dins of laughter adorning every thread. Speaking about the wedding coming up or the night just gone by. Each thread woven amidst banter of happy women looking forward to the future. Every color a personal favorite of the one who embroiders. It’s a fortunate thread I must say that is picked by the proud women of Kutch if it is to be patterned into a story for the wearer to continue.” . . This gorgeous, hand embroidered blouse is made by the incredibly talented and proud women of Kutch for @shrujanindia . Each piece beautiful, each piece unique. The women of Kutch don’t necessarily follow colours or design. They feel one with their materials and just go with the flow. There is art, meditation, commitment, community and a story in every piece. Find this blouse and more such as waistcoats, bags, cushion covers, stohls, decor pieces and collectibles at Shrujan’s pop up sale at #PeopleTree , Goa. Each piece is unique and will last a short while before it’s gone. So do go check them out soon! I have paired the blouse with an Ikkat Sari from Odisha. The East Champaran drape does well to accentuate the blouse :)

78 Likes, 9 Comments – Nikaytaa (@nikaytaa) on Instagram: “”I can hear dins of laughter adorning every thread. Speaking about the wedding coming up or the…”

On that note, give us a tour of India through three different drapes.

I’ll start with my favourite drape, Venuka Gundaram from Andhra Pradesh. The drape is generally worn by the agricultural community. According to me, it tells how the women prefer freedom. It’s open from the front and pleats are at the back.

The second one is Dhokna Jalpaigudi from West Bengal. This one looks like a short dress with no sleeves, so can be made into a tube dress as well. It doesn’t need a blouse or bra and it’s perfect for me. This is a no-nonsense drape worn by the Tribal community.

The third one will be Sambalpuri drape, which is an Odissi dancer drape. This one is very fluid, versatile, and comfortable.

Incredible India, indeed!

Tell us about your biggest adventure in saree.

My road trip from Pune to Goa last year was an adventure in every sense. Firstly, after 14 years of experience in driving, I drove alone for a such a long distance for the first time. Secondly, I put my daily saree usage to test. My fear of it falling off during the journey was saved and I was so happy that I didn’t have to adjust for 12 hours.

Yesterday was my first solo road trip to Goa. I had been very anxious leading up to the day. What if I have an accident? What if something breaks down? What if? Through those moments, it wasn’t helping that I have been driving for more than 14 years now, have done a solo trip of 250 Kms to Igatpuri recently & have also driven to Kerala (albeit with family and brother/ father as optional drivers) a few years ago. As I was preparing myself for the trip, mentally more than physically, I decided to draw my strength from the Sari. In an instant, my focus shifted from getting jittery to being excited. I needed a drape that was short, comfortable, and hands-free to drive in, and at the same time gave me the freedom to go to the restroom and be out in minutes than spend my time putting my Sari back into a defined form. In an instant I knew the #Dhokna #Jalpaiguri style (from West Bengal) would be perfect for this endeavour & would also give it the playful, fun aesthetic befitting for a first solo trip to Goa! For the Sari, I needed a soft cotton sari that would be comfortable and not pull at my skin. I immediately was taken to the memory of my Nani. A soft, gentle woman, she would love her Saris soft and without starch. The sarees she wore were butter on the skin. I picked this beautiful gray & blue sari that once upon a time adorned her & now has been passed down to me. Draped & on the road, it’s not like I didn’t get nervous again. The brain tries it’s best to keep one from doing something new and adventurous. The unknown is scary to the brain & not good for survival. At times like these, with nobody to turn to for solace & support but myself, I would hold & smell my grandmom’s Sari for comfort, love, and the determination to keep going. I have the love and blessings of everyone around me. Everything will be all right. And it was! 450kms. 12 hours. And a memory of a lifetime! More stories soon :) #Roadtrip #solo #car #Pune #Goa #Sari #Cotton #grandmom #strength #love #determined #highway #lonelytraveller #100sareepact #108 #100Sareedrapesproject #100SariDrapesProject #WestBengal #Indianfashion #culture #bePractical #Love #memory #RtaKapurChishti

54 Likes, 15 Comments – Nikaytaa (@nikaytaa) on Instagram: “Yesterday was my first solo road trip to Goa. I had been very anxious leading up to the day. What…”

Nikaytaa, what role does the saree play in promoting body positivity?

Saree is a flattering outfit and every body deserves to be flaunted in it. However, if you’re not comfortable wearing the Nivi drape, go for the other hundreds of drapes. For example, the bogigili posi kattukodam drape from Andhra Pradesh is quite perfect.

A fashion blogger who has cracked the code of saree?        

Tanaya Das from Australia. She wears sarees in all sorts of ways. What I can learn from her Instagram and blog is that she wears saree to express herself and she doesn’t conform to social rules.

Before we wrap up, we’re in 2018 but what is the stigma that is still attached to a saree? 

That in order to gain acceptance from the society, you have to wear it in a particular way with petticoat and blouse. Another stigma is that saree is not for men. Like, one of my male friends went saree shopping for himself in Bengaluru and when he told the salesman about it, he asked him to leave.

My male friends, when was the last time you wore a Sari? . The war on gender equality cannot be fought by women and queers alone. It demands equal participation from the cis hetero male community as well. The Sari is a fluid garment that can be worn to depict soft as well as bold qualities of the wearer. If nothing else this photograph should prove it! . In photo: @ghoseb #SariFriends

72 Likes, 7 Comments – Nikaytaa (@nikaytaa) on Instagram: “My male friends, when was the last time you wore a Sari? . The war on gender equality cannot be…”

Last weekend I was in Goa and met my favourite people at my favourite store @peopletree. This time was special! #PeopleTree #Goa #Handloom #Saris #Saree #ILoveHandloom #croptop #funkyshoes #brightcolors #sustainablefashion

55 Likes, 4 Comments – Nikaytaa (@nikaytaa) on Instagram: “Last weekend I was in Goa and met my favourite people at my favourite store @peopletree. This time…”

 

First published on May 25, 2018.

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