The Cool Sunday Santhai provided an avenue for women to share their talent with the rest of the world

My auto driver, Muthu enquires, “I have made several trips here since morning. Is there a wedding?” I tell him that it is the Cool Sunday Santhai that has attracted the crowd. And what a crowd it is.

It is seven in the evening and parking area is full. Inside, the hall thrums with activity. Women wade through saris, mehendi sellers draw designs for giggling girls and bored husbands entertain their restless children, treating them to kulfis and ice creams at the food stalls, as their wives shop.

R. Pavithra’s stall for nail art and mehendi is buzzing. An MBA student, Pavithra was not allowed to work after her marriage. “I learnt nail art, online, to keep myself occupied. Initially, I did it just for fun. But, when I heard about the Santhai, I thought I must put up a stall,” she says.

There are many women like Pavithra who are excited about showcasing their work at the expo, organised by Frangipani-Transforming Lifestyles.

Somewhat similar is the story of Raji Rajesh, an artist from Palakkad. Raji entered the world of art after she got married and her children became busy with studies. “I am a self-taught artist. I learnt drawing and craft online, and, now, I take classes at home too.” Her decoupage and paper mache works adorn pots showing Kerala murals and works of Raja Ravi Varma.

Lakshmi Meera, who heads South India Institute of Fashion Technology shows off her pure cotton kurtis with embroidery and zari work. “We provide tailoring training and six-month long internship to women from rural backgrounds,” she says.

Vandana Kothari sells saris, dupattas and night wear with bandhani, appliqué and batik. Vandana, started off doing business from her home. “I visit Surat, Kutch and Rajkot every year to update my collection with latest fashion,” she says. Next to her is Simpal A. Raichura who sells Gujarati snacks such as crispy Khakras, and ceramic lanterns and flower pots with the traditional Gujarati craft motifs.

For Lavanya and Parkavi, two college friends,it is an opportunity to sell their handmade earrings. Their jhumkas, made of paper quilling strips and beads, are pretty. Heena Acharya and Hetal Sanghrajka offer casual and semi-formal foot wear.

Priced between Rs. 120 and Rs.375, the funky slippers are beaded.

People can be forgiven for being drawn towards the scent of citrus fruits, chocolate and mint, thinking they are in for an edible treat. It is actually a stall belonging to V. Renuka, who sells home-made soaps in these flavours! She also provides customers with tips on flavours that will suit their skin.

“For dry skin, chocolate, aloe vera and avocado are good. Those, who have an oily skin, should stick to orange peel and lemon,” she explains. Renuka, along with her cousin J. Devi, makes the hand-made soaps at home. “We avoid artificial chemicals and use only essential oils,” she says.

Valentine’s Day has arrived a week early at the stall of Sapna Koshy, who greets you with her gift hampers, shaped like hearts and flowers. There are Barbie dolls, decorated with chocolates. An IT professional, Sapna launched her home brand Golden Wraps in June 2012. She takes up gift orders for all occasions, whips up home-made chocolates and holds chocolate-making classes.

By now, a heady aroma of hot chaat, panipuri and cutlets wafts from the food stalls. Tired but happy customers, lugging heavy plastic bags, relish hot vegetable stew and aapam. It refuels them enough to send them on another round of shopping.