Called #SixYardsAnd365Days, Noida resident Sunita Budhiraja has built a community of 22,000 saree lovers, empowering women and weavers in the process.
It was her b'day and her friend Pandit Jasraj, the renowned Indian classical vocalist, called her from Mumbai to wish her. But the moment she kept the phone down, she felt strongly about meeting him that day itself. She took the first available flight and flew all the way from Bengaluru and presented herself at his Mumbai residence. Of course, Panditji was delightfully surprised. Later, en route to the airport for her return flight, the legendary musician stopped at Kala Niketan in Juhu and bought her a Maharashtrian Paithini saree — that was her b'day present.
Like the one above, every saree has a story, a memory, an emotion attached. There is one that was gifted by writer Khushwant Singh when she was working with him in National Herald. She has another - a Patan Patola - which her granny bought her in 1973 for Rs 500, the value of which has now shot up to more than a lakh. She still has the first saree she bought with her own money - a baluchari - in 1979. Never mind the saree was for Rs 1,164 when her salary was just under Rs 2,000. One of her recent acquisitions is a coarse khadi saree, the yarn of which was spun on a charkha.
Sunita Budhiraja has posted 500 images of hers on the FB page, each in a different saree
Rare, priceless, each a work of art, the saree collection of communications professional Sunita Budhiraja, a resident of Kalypso Court in Sector 128, Noida, now exceeds the 500 mark.
But that's not why we feature her in City Spidey. Her love for the saree has prompted her to build a Facebook community of saree lovers numbering 22,000 plus. Called #SixYardsAnd365Days, this happened within a span of just two years. "When PM Modi started talking about Digital India, that's when I thought I should build an online community," Budhiraja says. "And it grew organically, with members from all over the world - Pakistan, Dubai, London, New York and, of course, Delhi."
Members post pictures of themselves in sarees with a description of the weaves. Sample this one from a member: "Yessterday [sic] a very special day...so celebrated with a special new drape from my mom's wardrobe... Its [sic] a brown baloochari cotton beauty with maroon n black weave... Ma doesnt like the color.. Bt fr me it's eye catcher...thanks ma fr this beautiful giftðŸ˜˜ðŸ˜˜!"
From online to offline, a member meet in New Delhi
Budhiraja says the FB page has also helped in empowering women. "Often there are women who quietly live their lives with no appreciation whatsoever, but when they post a picture and get 'likes' and comments by hundreds of unknown people from everywhere, it works wonders for their self-esteem," she says. Often, members bond over the six yards to talk about their personal and family lives as well.
But there are rules to be followed: For one, members are allowed to upload their photos only in handloom sarees, or hand-embroidered and hand-painted sarees. Crepe, chiffon, georgette, net, crepe silk and powerloom sarees are not allowed. "We don't argue with members on the authenticity of the saree, as we believe as mature adults we will only post handloom sarees," the rules say. And yes, "post what you have worn in the last 48 hours".
One of the members of #SixYardsAnd365Days
Despite the sizeable member strength, Budhiraja, also an author of several books on music, doesn't want to make it a commercial platform. "If we accept ads it will be only for handloom sarees," she says. "By focusing on handloom sarees, we are supporting the weavers. We are creating a demand," she adds.
The community has gone offline too, with several cities setting up their own local chapters of #SixYardsAnd365Days. There had been a few member get-togethers at Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Delhi, where weavers were invited for live demos.
Here's to the sonata in six yards!