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S2S annual sari walk/run: Women in vibrant saris step off in rain like “beacon of colors” to honor mothers

NRI PULSE STAFF REPORT

Photos by Arvind Shukla

Atlanta, GA, May 31, 2024: The sari bears testament to the timeless elegance and a link to the rich tapestry of India.  For many in the diaspora, the draped-and-pleated piece of classic textile has an emotional reach to their roots and what they hold dearest in their hearts – their precious, self-sacrificing, and divine mothers, who conducted their daily chores, child-rearing, businesses, prayers wearing simple sustainable cotton, mixed fabric, polyester, and on a special occasion, silk or sequined embroidered textile.  Draped in a rich weave, women across Georgia gathered at the annual Sari Walk to honor Ma! hosted by Saris To Suits ® at Webb Bridge Park in the Atlanta Metro area on May 19, 2024.

This 2nd annual S2S Sari Walk/Run had a mission to inspire women’s health and wellness while honoring mothers, with a one-mile walk as the first steps.  Georgia Republican Congressman Dr. Rich McCormick served as the Guest of Honor.  As soon as he cut the ceremonial red ribbon, the lush green pathways of Webb Bridge Park in Alpharetta doused in delightful colors.  It was a sight to behold as women in vibrant, ‘happy’  saris walked the trails holding up kaleidoscopic umbrellas.

Women in radiant saris, McCormick quipped, served as the “beacon” in the parking lot directing him and his staff to a portion of the hiking trails of the 109-acre Alpharetta park.  “It is always a pleasure to be among people who are seeking their best mentally, physically, and spiritually….who see what the real answer to life is and it’s these relationships we form that make us healthy,”  he remarked.  “I’m a guy who believes in fitness. It’s very much who I am. It defines me as a Marine (pilot) and as a person. Healthy Mind, healthy body and healthy spirit.  I keep telling my kids to always seek these three pillars and understand the truth about these relationships… the ability to come together as a community and represent something that’s good and beautiful.”

Dr. Rich McCormick and Tanvi Ghangrekar cut the ceremonial ribbon.

Assisting the ER physician-turned-legislator in cutting the ceremonial ribbon to begin the 1.4-mile walk was Tanvi Rajiv Ghangrekar of Mindful Mastery Wellness, whose cream and blue silk sari was eye-catching with its delicate, peacock embroidery work that draped over the shoulder. She, along with the Tripathi Foundation, Alpharetta-based PrintForm Cloud Manufacturing, and Bagel Boys Cafe, partnered with Saris to Suits ®.

“My day began with blessings, “ Ghangrekar said on a positive note.  “ I want to take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude for all the incredible work you do at Saris to Suits ®.  Your efforts are making a positive impact on the lives of so many women.  Although it was raining we all continued to walk.  I always feel the rain is a blessing.”   

Founder Patti Tripathi with board members Lakshmi Mandavilli, Jyothsna Hegde and Mary Annamraju (missing Shinjini Das).

Saris to Suits ® has organized dozens of events over the past decade with a vision to empower, inspire, educate, and serve.   Founder Pratibha “Patti” Tripathi and the members of the executive board draped empowerment saris in various hues with descriptive words in Hindi and English about all the plethora of roles played by women.  “Athletic,” “sporty” and “Fit & Free,” are not words or phrases commonly used to describe traditional women of Indian origin, and Tripathi notes it is crucial for work-life balance, and to look and feel best. 

Dedicated to mothers everywhere, and generally held close to Mother’s Day, the S2S Sari Run/Walk this year also paid tribute to 18-year-old students who lost their lives in a car accident the same week in Alpharetta – Anvi Sharma, Sriya Avasarala, and Aryan Joshi.  A moment of silence was observed in the memory of the teens whose full potential sadly would never be realized; and as a dedication to their mothers whose lives will never be the same.  

“This tragedy hit too close to home,” said Jyothsna Hegde, the charity’s Chair of the Board, who knew Anvi Sharma and her family personally.   “Anvi was a wonderful girl, kind and generous, whose bright smile lit up any room she walked into. A gifted singer, she was with UGA Kalakaar, an a cappella group, and headed to India to take care of her ailing grandparents a week shy of the incident.”   Hegde is also observing spiritual guidelines and devotions after her own Mother’s passing in Bengaluru, which made her appreciate the walk to honor moms who go the extra mile draped in a sari. “Every sari tells a story. My mom had this sari which had silver strands within – passed down from hers and now to my sister and I. Post her passing, I drape myself in those memories.”

Vibrant umbrellas in the pleasant rain, which was not a downpour, added an extra splash of color in the woods with sari-clad women (and men, children) walking.   Others preferred to be drenched in the light rain like playful children.  The upbeat cadence of women’s Dhol (drums) and Tasha led by Amruta Phadke of the Nadtal group drummed up excitement among walkers and observers.   Credits to Meenal Gadre, Varsha Jalgaonkar, Sonanjali Deshmukh, Swapna Rane, Deepali Keskar, Deepa Deshpande and Rupali Patil who were all part of the Nadtal group.

Notable partners that contributed to making the event memorable are Nita Sardana of Innova Solutions,  Madhu and Jag Sheth Family Foundation, and the Publix grocery chain.

Just as the skies cleared and the sun peeked through the trees, a bright and beautiful team of women led by Hetal Mehta, with announcer Bhrushira Vyas made its way to the trail from the parking lot.  Themed “unity in Diversity,” original Bollywood-style and traditional dance performance credits go to Dee Madan, Meghana Naik, Ranjita Palei Bariik, Vrushali Unde Ternikar, Dhanashree Raipure Lavatre, Priya Kumar, Hina Patel, Nisha Vattsal and Sonia Nandi– all of whom wowed the onlookers with their montage of dance routines tied to tunes and regional attire.

A week after Mother’s Day, the event was meant to honor mothers everywhere. “Our mothers, especially the South Asian variety, make huge personal sacrifices for our welfare.  Nothing they want more than their children’s health and happiness.  Mine would be 75,  and she passed away 20 years ago,” said Tripathi.  “We were like two peas in a pod and spoke several times a day”  She reminded her children the value of good health habits as she died from complications of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

“Saris To Suits copyright and registered trademark is symbolic to me of a transition from traditional attire (saris) to formal business attire (suits) for women in the workplace, particularly for their first events or professional engagements,” said Tripathi, a former network news anchor and global media professional, whose family moved from North India to Notre Dame, Indiana. She has resided in Georgia for the longest period of her largely nomadic life wearing tailored suits on the anchor desk to her Mom’s vintage saris for weddings and special events.

 “The shift from saris to suits (East to West) can be a significant cultural and professional milestone, and that is what the S2S Walk/Run signifies: A cultural exchange and adaptation, professional identity and empowerment, fashion and style evolution and breaking barriers and stereotypes,” said Tripathi, who founded the tax exempt nonprofit  in 2012 in Florida partly to honor her Mother and with a vision to empower, inspire, educate, and serve.

The community mingled as women cheerfully sipped hot coffee with delicious bagels generously provided by Bagel Boys café, along with fruit and healthy nourishments.  Henna designs on hand were popular beneath the covered and shaded cabana.  Up for grabs to lucky raffle prize winners were Kendra Scott Earrings, Woodhouse Spa, and certificates made by available by Dimple Lilian Kriplani of Be Well Health Clinic for a complete physical, CPE/bloodwork; and ethnic necklace/earring set donated by Priya Dharmendra of Disha Jewelry.  Local talent and do- gooders deserving credit are Hetal Mehta, Neetu Chauhan Gaherwar, Veena Pothula of Vee Events,  Pooja Murthy of Fab Store, Pratima Dhuma of NadTal, Arvind Shukla of PhotographyByArvind, Sumana Goswami and NRI Pulse Newspaper.

 “The community support is so heartening. There’s no simple way to express how deeply I feel, except gratitude, “ said Tripathi.  She envisions a Sari Walk for Ma to grow and widen to be inclusive of people of all color and nationalities who walk side by side during the month of May celebration and for it to spread nationwide to major metropolitan US cities, much like festivals and holidays such as Holi and Diwali.  “I was so pleased to walk along with Congressman Dr. Richard McCormick, who praises his hard-working and accomplished Indian-American constituents of the 6th District of Georgia. “

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