Friday, September 26, 2014

Sari Simplified for the Western Woman (6 FAQs, Tips & Tutorials to get you started on your sari journey)

Over the past few weeks, I wrote a bunch of posts on the sari – 6 myths, quirky sari styling tips and whimsical sari blouses that stirred up a lot of interest globally and got women across the country rummaging through their stash of saris. My basic premise for writing the #SariInStyle series is to inspire women to wear saris more often, do casual in it (in urban India, a sari has become the go-to ‘function’ costume and no more), and let their sari collection see a bit more of the sun.

Interestingly, I’ve got a lot of queries from women in the USA, Europe and Australia about wearing saris. The how-tos, the rules, the do’s and don’ts. So, this week’s #SariInStyle is about that – things that non-Asian women/ Western women, may want to keep in mind when they wear a sari.

So ladies, here are a few FAQs on wearing #saris as a Western woman.

I’m a white woman and was wondering if it’s okay to wear a sari?

Absolutely. In spite of the assortment of views that pop up after a search on Google about “western woman in a sari”, I say, wear a #sari if you want to. Sari is not just an #IndianAttire but also a #style statement. So, if you want to express your own style or experiment or just wear one out of curiosity, then go ahead.

Will I offend Indians by wearing a sari?

I don’t think so, as long as you wear it correctly. In fact, my Indian friends and I are always pleasantly surprised to see non-Indian women in saris.

How can I learn to wear a sari?

The internet is the best bet if you don’t already have an Indian friend who can teach you to wear a sari. There are several helpful tutorials out there that can teach you how to drape a sari in a matter of minutes. Of course, you’ll have to practice wearing a sari several times before you get the hang of it (it took me many months to perfect the art of draping a sari!). Here’s a tutorial that may help you learn the ins and outs of #wearingasari and here’s a blog post with lots of tips on getting the sari right.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Why I've rethought my work goals

I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals over the past 14 months, ever since my son was born. After having worked for several years, both in the corporate office set-up and then as a work-from-home professional, I was ready to take a break (sort-of) when my little boy was born. But, strangely, during those first few months when I seemed to spend a 100 hours on the couch nursing my newborn, my desire to get back to full-time work ignited to a roaring, crackling bonfire. I wanted to work again, and couldn’t wait to get back.

I joined up with an entrepreneur friend to head the content division of her company. But several team meetings and con calls and ideating hours later, I discovered that I needed to write again. To share my stories, to breathe life into words. Managing a team of writers and sitting on con calls wasn’t cutting it for me.
And so I started this blog. To write, to share, to build a community. I wasn’t sure if I’d make any money out of blogging, but after years of having written on demand (assignments for magazines and companies), I was craving a writing realm of my own. A place where I could write what I wanted to, when I wanted to; share a slice of my life online; romp around in a happy heap of stories.

One blog grew into two – the second one – Baby Steps to Working-from-Home, about another passion of mine – working-from-home. I write about starting a career from home, about taking those baby steps that seem so hard at the beginning, to stay true to yourself in the busy jostle of jobs and pay cheques. I also started taking lots of online courses, learning about writing, marketing, art and photography.

Friday, September 19, 2014

7 Sari Blouses for that Casual/Chic/Smart Look

Pic Credit: Calantha Wardrobe

So, how has the sari been treating you this past week? Err…or rather, how have you been treating the sari? Have you managed to take those gorgeous yards of fabric out of your closets, dusted them out and worn them? Have you collected a fair share of compliments and comments? Have you fallen a tiny bit more in love with this garment that often gets traded for a pair of jeans and a polyester top?

Well, if my Sari in Style (#sariinstyle) posts (here & here) are inspiring you to give the sari a chance, then read on for this week’s dose of styling tips. Now that we’re a little more convinced about doing casual in a sari (I hope!), let’s move on to that ‘thing’ that can make or break your casual/chic/smart look. A sari blouse.

Like I said last week, by wearing a matching sari blouse you risk going down the traditional route, which is fine if you want to wear it like it’s always been worn. But if you want to flaunt your sari at a casual do and stand out, then a bit of chutzpah is called for. So, let’s add a twist to the sari ensemble by choosing from an array of blouses. Let’s add an element of interest, a dash of quirky, a sprinkling of casual with a blouse.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua - a book review

I finished reading Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother over the weekend. And it made so many things crystal clear. For instance, why my parents were so strict with me when I was growing up; why my mother goaded me to bring home the gold (i.e. come first in class) till I was 12 and couldn't understand why I couldn't or wouldn't; why my parents had such strong views on everything that I did. Why disciplining the hard way seemed just right (to them, not me!).

While, unlike Amy Chua, my parents never pushed me to excel at Piano, Violin or any musical instrument for that matter, they had their own parenting methods. And I’m sure, if you’re Asian (the Asian style of parenting is not just for the Chinese!) and over 30, you may have experienced one or the other form of the intense, firebrand parenting that Chua writes about.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Staying Happy Needs Practice (and the 7 ways I try to keep my handle on happiness)

photography by chandana banerjee

There’s so much being written about happiness. From books to projects to blogs, the subject of happiness is buzzing around in sunshine yellow circles. With enough being said and researched about what happiness is and how to stay happy, I’m not going to try to analyze it further. I’m sure each of you has her own definition of happy.

But, being an inherently happy person (my mother still calls me her “sunshine girl”) as well as someone who gets bitten by the anxiety bug very quickly (we’re all a bundle of contradictions!), I’ve realized that staying happy (and this is different from ‘being happy’) needs a lot of work. It needs more than just the will to be happy. It’s more than getting wrapped in a haze of excitement and then tumbling town the scales just as quickly. It’s more than 7-hours of chatting and laughing (the parties in the services are for approx 7 hours). It’s more than a few hours of giddy joy or a shopping spree or a bushel of praise (though all of these contribute a little bit towards creating this mosaic of happiness).

Happiness, the one made with solid gold, the one made of sterner stuff, takes practice. It takes effort. It takes a lot of deep breaths and a lot of letting go. It takes self-nourishment and wisdom, heartbreak and love. It takes more than a few dinner parties and social media joy, more than a big bonus and a spectacular car/house/dress/gadget. It can take years and days before you start getting the hang of it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

7 Ways to Style a Sari

So, we’ve been talking about looking stylish in a sari. About doing casual in a sari. About turning the sari into the little black dress of your wardrobe. All the things that seem impossible with 6 yards of hand woven fabric, especially when cute cocktail dresses and jumpsuits seem to be the new chic.

Like I said in my previous post, wearing the sari with panache is often about creating a look around it rather than slipping into a sari and matching blouse without giving too much of thought to how you want to look when you’re done with the draping and ready to walk out of that door.

So, I thought I’d share some of my tips. Things that I’ve been doing to create a look around the saris I wear. And I wear a lot of them. I own a 100 saris and enjoy taking the ‘boring’ out of the concept of wearing these beauties.

So, here we go. Mix and match these tips, personalize them or add to them. Use them when you slip into a crisp cotton for an office meeting or a Garden chiffon for an evening at the art museum; when you wear silks – the brocade or the raw kinds; when you wear a sari for a cocktail evening or dinner in town.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Thank You + Sari in Style Feature

On Friday, I wrote about the sari, the myths that are woven around it, the things that prevent us from wearing this luscious garment with élan. The things that have turned the sari into a costume to be donned only at special occasions.

Spurred on by a conversation about wearing Indian attires with style, I wrote about stuff that’s always been on my mind, the things that jump out at me whenever I wear a sari and am met with a barrage of reactions. And I was so surprised to find out that it struck a chord in over 800 people across the globe. From working women in urban India who had stopped wearing the sari for the fear of attracting bemused reactions to moms in the USA who want to learn how to drape a sari and wear it often, 6 Myths about the Sari made a lot of people smile. And I’m so glad about that.

Its conversations like this that remind me again and again why I’m blogging. Why I sit in my little studio office in one corner of the country, typing out my thoughts, giving words to my rants, sharing my affirmations. Why I rush during nap times (my son’s) to write, to share.

Friday, September 5, 2014

6 Myths about the Sari


Yesterday, there was this interesting conversation happening at a friend’s page on a social media network. All about desi style. The kurti, sari, big bindi, kolhapuri (handcrafted slippers), big jhumkas (Indian-style chandelier earrings) and jhola (traditional handmade bags in India) look. The kind of look I love, and was surprised to read, that several other women love too.

For years, I’ve found myself alone in my love for the desi look. Oh yes, I do wear maxi dresses or treggings occasionally, but my preferred go-to ensemble is anything Indian, natural (fabric) and hand woven. I favor saris (6 yards of handloom fabric) heavily, my wardrobe and boxes bursting at the seams with them. I team these gorgeous beauties with embroidered blouses, lots of chunky silver and wooden jewelry, and a big bindi. While I’m confident and happy in this kind of attire and wear this to parties, malls, restaurants and work do’s, I’ve noticed that just wearing something that’s so Indian (in India!) and not fitting into the standard style mold, attracts all sorts of reactions.

Monday, September 1, 2014

When mining the gold in our days is a simple step away...(friends, stories & positive stuff)

Photo credit: Tina A. Mathur & Sandeep Banerjee

Life’s what we make of it. And so is our internet time. Whether we fritter away those moments online (or offline), posting negative comments, angry words or wisps of judgment, or leave a bread crumb trail of positivity -  what we do with our time, our life, our days, is often up to us.

Just the other day, Priyanka - a friend, fellow writer and Air Force wife, passed on a gratitude challenge to me. We had to list out and post all those things we are grateful for; the abundance and the love, our family and our friends, the food on our table and the clothes on our back. The small and the big, the old and the new, the tangible and the intangible. Gratitude in all its forms, in all its glory, in all its simplicity.

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