- Minnesota-based Divya Maiya and her husband want to normalize the sari and the dhoti, whether on the ski slopes, mountains or deserts.
Gone are the days when a sari was looked upon as a cumbersome garment, unwieldy and unmanageable. Now we have women who hike in a sari, do a back-flip, do the hula hoop and ski. Yes, you heard it right. Divya Maiya of Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been there and done that.
Last week, Maiya became an internet sensation after a video of her and her husband zipping down the slopes in a sari and a dhoti went viral. Maiya had posted the videos on her Instagram profile. “We needed to do something really crazy today to distract ourselves!” Maiya wrote on Instagram.
Maiya and her spouse, Madhu Bangalore, can be seen effortlessly gliding through the snow in Welch village, a ski resort in Minnesota. In one video, both of them can be seen prepping and skiing together. Another video shows the two getting ready for their adventure.
“My partner in crime for everything silly and stupid. And thank you for all the love pouring in from everywhere for the Skiing in Saree videos,” she wrote in another post on Instagram. The video has managed to garner more than 2.4 million views and over 17,000 likes.
Maiya told American Kahani that she got inspired after seeing fashion blogger Masoom Minawala Mehta’s video in the Alps. “A few of my friends tagged me on that video,” she says. “Why haven’t we thought of this,” she wondered. “We ski very often, at least two to three times a month.”
Her expertise in skiing held her in good stead when she draped a sari over her ski gear. “We have been skiing for a very long time” she says. “Which is why it was a lot easier,” she says. Maiya knew she wouldn’t fall, “so my focus was to make sure that my sari is in place,” she says with a laugh.
The idea behind packing a sari on her trips is to “normalize a sari,” she says. She talks about her grandmother, who “used to wear a sari all the time.” She was born and raised in a coastal town in Karnataka and is a swimmer. “They used to live right by the ocean and she swam,” Maiya says. “Obviously she never wore a swimming costume or anything,” she adds. “People have a very different conception of a sari, like it’s only a party wear, especially in the U.S.”
She brings up another interesting point. She says that after she posted the video she realized that whenever her mother visits, Maiya has insisted that she wear western clothes like jeans, etc. “So many times we force them to get out of their comfort zone, whereas it’s more like a thought process for me that you can wear whatever you feel comfortable in.”
Skiing in just one of the “crazy things” the couple does. “We do hikes, we do all kinds of crazy things,” she says, adding that most of their trips are “impromptu.” However last-minute the trip is, Maiya makes sure she packs a sari wherever the destination is. “Both of us are photographers as well — my partner and I -— so we are ready for photo shoots anywhere,” she says.
“We love traveling, we just take off.” she says. “I used to be a swimmer, so I love water,” she adds. She is game for anything adventurous and she pulls her partner into it. “I am crazier than my spouse.”
The couple has checked most of the things many people have on their bucket-lists. Some of that includes driving across the U.S, car-camping, hiking, scuba diving and sky-diving. Last year, when most of us were binge-watching on our television sets, Maiya says that drove over 8,000 miles across the country.
“We recently did a 14 mile hike, we went to the top of the mountain and did a sari photo shoot.” she says. Another time, they “drove all the way to New Mexico,” and went to the White Trans desert, we hiked there and did a sari photo shoot.
More often than not, it is Maiya and Bangalore who head out for these trips, sometimes Maiya’s brother and sister-in-law accompany them. “Our travel is very unplanned so it doesn’t suit a lot of people,” she says with a laugh. Agreeing that unplanned trips are the best, she says, “A lot of people get anxiety without a plan.”
So where does Maiya get this adventure streak from? “My parents are also super adventurous and crazy,” she says. Growing up she recalls going for hikes and trips. “My parents have both been athletes in the past so they have always been outdoorsy and active.”
Born and raised in Bangalore, Maiya and Bangalore moved to the U.S. 10 years ago. Maiya works as a Digital Product Manager at Best Buy, while Bangalore works with Infosys. She is also the co-founder and executive director of Saath, South Asian Arts And Theater House, a nonprofit “committed to celebrating cultural diversity and social harmony in our communities through the joyful medium of dance, performing arts, and related South Asian cultural traditions.”
Maiya explains: “Especially in a midwestern city like Minneapolis, we have this common platform where we want people to come together — people of all backgrounds, all gender identities, all ages — and form a community to rely on.”
Bhargavi Kulkarni has been a journalist for nearly two decades. She has a degree in English literature and French. She is also an adventure sport enthusiast, and in her free time, she likes to cook, bake, bike and hike.