Friday, 12 August 2011

My first Sari, feeling glamorous and partying!

It was Deep Griha Society’s 36th birthday in July and they threw a party for all the staff and friends of the charity. The party was an all day event which took place in Abul Kalam Memorial Hall in Koregaon Park, Pune. It was a special day and everyone had to dress up in their best outfits.

A week or so before the event, all the volunteers decided that we would all wear a Sari to the party. As we didn’t yet have any, this meant going shopping for some. So one Monday after work, Kassie (an American volunteer), Susannah (an English volunteer) and I decided to go to Laxmi Road to buy one. Laxmi Road is a 15 minute auto rickshaw ride away from the charity office and is a crazy, busy shopping area in Pune where you can find practically everything you want, for good prices.

It really is an experience going Sari shopping. There are so many shops to choose from and you can’t really see what they have without going inside and having a good hard look.

Before you enter the shops, you have to take your shoes off and leave them at the door. This is very important, not only for cleanliness but it is also a sign of respect. Once inside you are faced with thousands of folded Sari’s on shelves that cover the walls from floor to ceiling. You are usually approached by a sales person who invites you to sit on the soft cushioned floor whilst they start pulling out Sari after Sari and throwing them on the floor to show you. At first it can be bit overwhelming due to the sheer amount of different colours, fabrics and finishes of the Sari’s to choose, especially if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. 

Beautiful Sari's

Beautiful Peacock pattern

After some time looking at them, you start to get a better idea of what you like and don’t like; transparent or opaque fabrics, sequins or beads, patterned or plain and so on.

After being shown quite a few, I decided that I wanted a red transparent, sparkly sequin Sari. I narrowed it down to two favourites that we found in one shop and whilst I thought about it, we looked in some other shops down the street.

Me trying on my a Sari for the first time ever!

Sari favourite number 1.

Sari favourite number 2.

Before we even started shopping, someone had said to us (can’t remember who now) that when searching for a Sari,

‘Only buy one if you really like it. If you can’t stop thinking about it and nothing else compares to it, then buy it. That’s the only way you’ll know that you’ve bought the right one and it’s the one for you. Don’t buy one half heartedly, you’ll end up regretting it.’

I remembered this and it really was true for me! The second red Sari that I tried on was ‘the one’ nothing else even came close!

Kassie trying on Sari.

The chosen one!

There are three main parts to a Sari, a Palu, the inside section and the Fall. The inside section is the least decorative due to the reason that it is not very visible. The Fall is the lined border at the bottom of the Sari and is always lined with an additional strip of fabric to add weight so that it ‘falls’ right and it also helps prevent wear and tear. The final part, the Palu is the most decorative part of the Sari as it is the most visible; it is the part that is draped over the shoulder and hangs down.

When you buy a Sari, it normally needs its hems stitching, a ‘Fall’ strip stitching on the bottom and the fabric for the blouse cutting off the end of it and made into a blouse. To finish the outfit, a separate petticoat is needed to wear underneath; they can be bought readymade or you can have it tailored.

As I wasn’t sure where to go to get my blouse made and Fall stitching, my friend Kaajal helped me the next day and took me to a small tailoring business in a shopping arcade called Wonderland on MG Road, in town. The tailor measured my chest and arms for the blouse and asked how I wanted it designed. I really wasn’t sure what to have but he did a few quick sketches and I went with one that does up at the front, has short sleeves and a cut out that exposes some of my back. As my Sari was a regular colour, it was easy to find a petticoat that matched so I bought a readymade one. I was able to pick it all up within 3 days, which I thought was really quick!

When I got it all home, I decided to try it on. I didn’t have a clue how to, so I watched a few videos on YouTube and gave it a go. It really didn’t look very good but it gave me the idea of what it was supposed to look like.

First time trying on at home.

To tie a Sari, you grab the opposite of the end of the material to the Palu, making sure the Fall is at the bottom and wrap it around your waist once whilst tucking it tightly, as you go, into the waistband of your petticoat. Then you grab the end of the Palu, concertina fold it, wrap it loosely around your body once again and drape it over your left shoulder, making sure that there is enough material hanging down your back. You should then be left with a huge loop of loose material at the front that starts at your waist in the middle and ends at the beginning of the Palu. All this material also needs to be concertina folded into pleats, pinned and tucked into your waist band. You can then adjust the Palu to make it look nice and pin it all into place.

On the day of the party I went to Susannah’s flat in Koregaon park (which was also on the way to the hall) so she could help me get ready, as she’s tied a Sari before.

Susannah getting ready.

All ready!

How do I look?

When we arrived at the venue however, we were both whisked off to the bathroom and had our Sari’s retied by Kavita (a girl and friend who works for the charity and who I teach English to). When she’d finished tying it, you could really tell that it looked a million times better.

Me, Kavita and Rajani. (L-R)
The venue was a grand looking building called Abul Kalam Memorial Hall and although it seemed beautiful at first glance, it really could have done with a good scrub and just a bit more of a general restoration and maintenance.  

Abul Kalam Memorial Hall.

The morning ceremony took place in a large conference hall in the upstairs of the building where there were lots of speeches and giving of thanks to various supporters of Deep Griha. There were also performances by the different departments of the charity such as songs, dances and acting sketches. As we were part of the international volunteers department, we had been asked to perform too. We had decided a week before the event to do a ‘Bollywood’ dance to a song called ‘Zoobi Doobi’ which Susannah, Kassie and I had choreographed and taught the other volunteers.

Memorial Hall.

Acting Sketch.

Candle dance.

Getting on the stage in front of a lot of people was a bit scary but as soon as the music came on, I forgot they were even there and just got into the performance. Everyone really enjoyed the dance and we even got a standing ovation! It was so much fun!

Lunch took place in another hall downstairs and consisted of rice, dhal, curry, vegetable dish and chapatti. It was really delicious!

Lunch time!

There were more performances after lunch in the hall upstairs and then it was time for a bit of old fashioned fun in the hall downstairs. We all played huge games of musical chairs and it was surprisingly so much fun! 
Especially when I went to sit on a chair a bit hard and fast and broke it and when  Kassie went running for a chair that moved as she sat down which then made her go flying across the floor on her bum!

All the girls! (and boy)

The other game that was played was a take on the egg and spoon race, called lemon and spoon. You have a lemon balanced on a spoon and hold the spoon in your mouth. The aim of the game is the same as the egg and spoon and you have to run from one point to another without dropping the lemon.

Lemon and spoon.

There were lots of really good photo opportunities that day, everyone looked amazing and it really felt as though we all got to know everyone a bit better. All the ladies seemed impressed with us for making an effort to wear Sari’s and kept stopping us to say ‘Chan’ which means nice or beautiful, I think in Marathi. 
All the attention was so nice and it felt, a bit, as if we were celebrities!

Me, Munda and Jackie (another American volunteer)

Me, Kassie and Susanah.

My guys! Rajani, Gorakh, Kavita whom I teach English to.

Susannah, Me and Kassie.

DGS staff and volunteers.

After the programme had finished at 5pm, we thought that seeing as we were all dressed up so nice; why not go to a posh hotel for a drink? So Susannah, Kassie and I went to The O Hotel and had a ‘classy’ pint of beer in its beautiful roof top bar.


Classy beer!

Photo shoot!

Photo shoot!
Photo shoot!

We finished the day with a mini photo shoot in the bar next to the pool and all headed home. It was such a fantastic day.  I loved wearing my Sari as it made me feel so glamorous! It would be great to feel like that every day. 

Thanks to Susannah Hodge and Gorakh Shinde for some of these photos.

If you want more information about Deep Griha Society or are interested in helping them continue to do the brilliant work that they do for the people of Pune, India, 

please visit their website:
or email:

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