Sunita Budhiraja – the founder and chairperson of Six yards and 365 days

by K.Siri Seera

Most people harbour sentiments about doing their bit for society. There is even talk about giving back what they have received from it. Truly speaking, when people are mired in the rut of day-to-day activities, with the thought in mind, the spirit may be willing, the flesh stays weak. Hardly few people get down to initiating something that they feel strongly about. Executing their philosophies and ideologies is but a far cry.

Sunita Budhiraja, currently CEO of Kindlewood Communications, a professional of 42 years of experience in the communication industry and an entrepreneur, is made of different stuff. Passionate about handlooms since a very young age of 16 she started a massive virtual campaign Six yards and 365 days with the aim of improving the morale and living conditions of the handloom weavers of tradition.

Celebration of women by women – a Facebook Campaign

In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for the need for Digital India. Using the platform of social media for a worthy cause immediately struck Budhiraja’s mind. She formed the core group of Six Yards and 365 Days with three other members and posted as many pictures of herself and others in handloom sarees on Facebook, the aim being to create a demand for hand woven sarees by advocating wearing them all 365 days of the year.

This started in a big way and many enthusiasts bought the idea by posting their own images wearing different varieties of handloom saree. The campaign focused on two things – creating the desired attention and demand for the handloom saree and its varieties, as well as inculcating some knowledge about the traditional sarees among the present generation.

What started in August 2015 with three members besides Sunita Budhiraja, has resulted in a strength of 28,000 members from India and beyond with the Calcutta chapter already 2,300 members strong and around 9,000 saree lovers waiting to be inducted into the fold.

She adds, “The sole idea was to support the weavers, but it has gone beyond that objective, it has created a community of women, who join hands to support each other emotionally. The group has become a knowledge sharing platform about weaves, embroideries, and varieties of handcrafted sarees. This has created an interest to know and buy more and members of the group have directly associated themselves with the weavers of Banaras, Chanderi, Maheshwar, Baluchar, Maniabandha, Nuapatna, Vishnupur and Assam, with more being explored regularly. This movement not only supports weavers directly but also generates employment opportunities for many.”

Because of its noble motives, the group of 20000 women plus has from different walks of life – high profile artists and authors, theater persons, educationists, entrepreneurs, doctors, NGO workers, communication professionals to housewives and weavers who come from underpaid, middle and low-income groups. They are in the age group of 20 to 70 years and above and come from every nook and corner of India besides several members from the USA, Canada, UK, Middle East, Far East and parts of Asia including Pakistan.

Celebrating the Outcome of the Campaign

The virtual Facebook campaign recently celebrated its irresistible love for handloom sarees. The members of the group gathered at Delhi at India International Centre on 21st May 2017.

This grand event was designed with the minutest details in mind, the color code of the evening being pink and its shades that also happened to be the favorite color of many ladies.

A huge collage comprising pictures from the earlier meets in various cities all over was thoughtfully created and put up on the wall. This created nostalgia in the guests. Also, rose petals were used extravagantly all over in sync with the theme.

About 120 lovely guests were part of this historical moment with some of the guests having enthusiastically travelled from across the country. Members were taken on a journey of an overview of about 1000 saree posts from the group with the help of a presentation by Sunita Budhiraja herself. Some of the Members narrated their experience to the delight of all others on how Six Yards and 365 Days has made a huge difference to their lives.

To keep members entertained, a quiz on the basis of various weaves of our country was conducted and enthusiasm of the members was worth seeing. Everyone present at the event was quipped to answer the interesting questions about handloom weaves.

After the quiz came the turn of felicitating the achievers who have successfully reached the milestone of wearing 100, 200, 365 and 500 sarees and contributing to the weavers in their own way.

It was an evening to remember. After all it was a momentous occasion.

Six Yards and 365 days

It is a lovely manner of creating a demand among its members across generations in the effort to promote handlooms. In other words it is a platform aimed at supporting artisans and weavers across the country.

Handloom is second only to agriculture in having the largest workforce in the country. It makes a significant contribution to the textiles industry with more than 70 % of its total force consisting of women. So if you were thinking that men alone were responsible for the beautiful weaves that you drape yourself with you need to re-think. It is these women that strive unceasingly to uphold India’s flag high who should have a major share in the laurels when it comes to the creation of heirloom fabrics that are applauded all over the world.

In the face of a lack of encouragement to this industry Six Yards and 365 Days had seen weaver families noticeably leaving in fairly large numbers in search of jobs in more lucrative avenues in urban areas. Sunita Budhiraja and her team aim through the novel idea of making handloom sarees daily wear. In the process they would be contributing their mite to the handloom effort through generating income for weavers through this idea and help sustain the interest in creating new weaves in the ‘now’ generation.

Let us meet the Core Team

Sunita Budhiraja is the CEO of Kindlewood Communications but her interests are diverse and wide-ranging. She is also an Author, poet, PR professional, presenter and compere.

The other initial members happen to be:

Alka Raghuvanshi ji, who is an artiste of repute and an art curator. She has been working with Chanderi and Maheshwari weavers since quite some time.

Vijayalaxmi Chhabra is very well known for her association with Information Technology, Broadcasting and once headed Doordadrshan too.

Sanjeev Manglani of Kalpana, Delhi is known for his relentless work with weavers for decades now.

Where did the idea germinate?

Sunita Budhiraja happened to see as a child, her mother weaving yarns on the spinning wheel. That created some sort of impression in her mind that created a love for the rectangular piece of cloth that was to be her life dream later. At the age of 18 she bought her first saree with her own money. Now even after being 60 plus the saree still remains a love and her life’s mission.

Going by her own words, “Love for handloom was in my genes. My grandfather owned a loom factory in Lahore before Partition. Even later my nana’s house had charkhas and I remember my peers spinning yarn and giving it to weavers to turn them into proper saris,” who has always preferred the six-yard to other garments and encourages other women to follow suit.

“I was inspired by the #100sareepact movement that encouraged women to tell sari stories and bring out their often forgotten six yards. I realised the power of social media during that movement. Till then I had always looked upon Facebook as a hindrance,” says Budhiraja, whose three-year-old group now boasts many former #100sareepact members. There are members from Greece and Pakistan too.

Facebook proved to be her biggest ally in uniting saree lovers, weavers and entrepreneurs from all over the globe through the Facebook group — #SixYardsand365Days. As mentioned earlier she has been popularizing the saree as daily wear and gathering more and more interested people every day to join in what should one day be a massive effort with rich dividends for the weavers and artisans.

Sunita Budhiraja – the founder and chairperson of Six yards and 365 days

Sunita Budhiraja is a multi-faceted personality, the founder and chairperson of Six yards and 365 days! With interests fairly diverse and wide-ranging.

She has authored many books. ‘Saat Suron Ke Beech’- a musicology based on several years of informal interactions with seven doyens of Indian classical music is one of her much-acclaimed books. She has a poetry book ‘Prashan Panchali ’ to her name that revolves around Draupadi and other characters of Mahabharata and which had been staged under the direction of theater personality Late Dinesh Thakur.

When she draped her first handloom saree at the tender age of 16, she had immediately fallen in love with the six yards that became inseparable from her then on. She decided that she would drape herself only in sarees and serve as an example of a proud Indian in love with the traditional saree and initiate young ladies too into wearing sarees.

When she saw the unhealthy living conditions she was deeply moved and decided then on that something should be done to alleviate their conditions. After all were they not the authors instrumental in narrating untold stories through the gems they created for their consumers? She also observed the trend of the power loom being on the rise because of its easy access and cost effectiveness. But her interest lay in assisting weavers continue to take their legacy forward and believed that their talent was definitely called for.

Some of the inspiring activities of #SixYardsand365Days

What does the Six yards and 365 Days group do?

The group encourages saree tales through contests between storytellers. “But it is essentially a platform for sharing knowledge and promoting different weaves. Commercial activity is, however, not encouraged,” adds Budhiraja.

From Dhaniakhali to Telia Rumal, more than two lakh saris have been posted in the group and weavers in Madhya Pradesh, Benaras, Assam and Bishnupur helped.

Members are encouraged to post pictures of themselves in their saris within 48 hours and are honoured for important sari-wearing milestones. There are members who have already clocked 400 saris since they joined the group. Budhiraja has clocked 950 saris since August 2015. The group, however, gives members no deadline to complete milestones.

According to her, buying one cotton sari helps 60 weavers and one silk, 80 weavers. “Our members buy an average of 10 saris a year. So that way we are helping around three crore weavers a year,” she added.

Over the years she had been mulling ways to popularise handloom saris. The digital platform proved to be the most potent. “We now have women opting for saris over other garments. Some have turned entrepreneurs too. Over 50 per cent of our members are below 50 years old. Linens and handlooms are exciting the younger lot these days,” she added. “When in doubt, always wear a sari. That’s our mantra.”

As handloom saris get a fresh lease of life through social media campaigns, Budhiraja has just one wish. “Let’s make some weaves like Banarasi, Balucharis and Patanis affordable by increasing their demand.”

Launching the Odisha Chapter

A unique endeavour to support the weaving community and Indian handlooms launched its Odisha chapter at Bhubaneswar in April 2018, amid much fanfare & celebration.

Ms Sunita Budhiraja’s engaging presentation who gave a glimpse of how the group was conceived, the objectives, how far had the group come since then, nearly 2500 photographs were downloaded from amongst 1,50,000 posts in more than 200 varieties of sarees that India and our handloom industry can boast of.

One of the highlights was to honour the members who have achieved their milestones of draping their 100, 200, 300 sarees and so on. There was also a Ramp Walk and an interesting quiz conducted on handlooms

Odisha being a hub for traditional varieties of handlooms is very important to the group  as it has the third highest number of members in the Group and maximum number of women have completed their milestone sarees of 100th, 200th, 300th and so on.

Final thought

Flaunting her 500th handloom saree on the occasion, which was an exquisite pink Banarasi, Budhiraja expressed her thoughts – “I am exhilarated to be celebrating this milestone with all my friends who are avid handloom saree lovers. I started this Facebook campaign with merely 4 members. The group has now grown leaps and bounds and touched 20,000 handloom saree lovers from across the world and counting. The idea was to encourage women to drape the six yards all the 365 days of the year thereby supporting the weavers because the demand for handloom sarees online would automatically go up. But this initiative has gone beyond that objective and it has created a community of women, who join hands to support each other emotionally. I would like to thank each one of them who have stood by me as part of this initiative. May our tribe grow.

Women like Sunita Budhiraja have always followed their passion, never daunted by what comes their way. And where passion becomes evident, other like-minded souls are enthused to join in. The very fact that she has managed to in a novel and interesting way to excite the senses of women across the country and to be able to include those overseas too, and with new chapters opening, it is an experiment that has become successful in the true sense of the word.

An initiative that has paid off well and shall continue to attract increasing numbers in the coming days, one needs to salute the manner in which she envisaged a potential result-oriented scheme and followed it up with her heart.

That is why to all of us at Unnati Silks – She’s Different.

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