Indian boutique in New Haven donates all profits to international women’s programs

Didi Ananda Vibha is photographed at the Seva Boutique inside of Edge of the Woods Natural Market in New Haven on 6/26/2017. Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media 

(Photo:cheap formal dresses)Tucked away on the upper level of Edge of the Woods Natural Market — somewhere above and between the coconut milk and gluten-free cupcakes — is one of the city’s best kept fashion secrets: a boutique of clothes, bags and other items made mostly in India.

As with many boutiques, the blouses shirts, dresses, skirts, tunics, ponchos, handbags, sweaters, Paschimas, and more are unique, timelessly fashionable and difficult to find in mainstream fashion outlets. They also carry bedspreads, jewelry, wall hangings and paper lamps.

And, 100 percent of the proceeds at Seva Boutique go toward programs to benefit women and children in India, Haiti, Mexico and Nicaragua. Seva means selfless service in Sanskrit.

The boutique was started and is run by Didi Ananda Vibha, who is part of the Ananda Margamovement, a global spiritual and social service organization with a mission of self-realization and service to humanity, according to the organization’s website. Ananda Marga translated means bath of bliss.

Didi is a title similar to what sister is to nun in the Catholic Church, although Ananda Marga is not religion. Didi’s wear orange, considered the color of sacrifice.

Through meditation centers and service projects throughout the world, the movement, founded in 1955 by Shri Shri Anandamurti, “offers instruction in meditation, yoga and other self-development practices on a non-commercial basis, and responds to social emergencies and long-term social needs.”

Vibha, who became a didi at 16 and has spent decades dedicated in that role, started the boutique about 18 months ago as a service project.

She already had a connection with Edge of the Woods Natural Market’s owners, as they are long-time followers of the movement. They give her the space rent-free, as well as the space to teach meditation and yoga, for which she said she is grateful.

Jessica Mendez, who discovered the boutique by accident months ago while shopping for vitamins, said she’s drawn to the clothes every time she shops at the market.

“These are fashions you can’t find anywhere else,” Mendez said. “I can’t leave without buying something.”

Joyce James said she likes that the profits go to a good cause — and besides, the clothes are awesome.

“They are unique and stylish,” she said. “But I don’t think a lot of people know about this.”

Vibha, a warm, soft-spoken woman originally from India, plays every role at the boutique, situated in part of an upstairs lounge at the popular market, located at 379 Whalley Ave. She’s the merchandise buyer, manager, salesperson, stocker, accountant, in addition to all the other leadership positions she holds in the spiritual movement.

Vibha said she is still trying to figure out what customers want and getting word out about the boutique, but so far, “People love it.”

“They feel satisfied buying here because it’s for a cause,” she said, noting the prices are also reasonable.

Vibha said customers often comment on the “Peace, calm” about the place — and it’s no wonder with her strong Ananda Marga presence there.

In keeping with the movement, she meditates four times a day and says meditation is to “calm, concentrate, expand the mind to that infinite essence.”

She says of keeping clear through meditation, “If you have a bucket of water you can’t see your face in it until the water is calm.”

Vibha, raised in India and raised in the movement — she says bred to become a didi — has been in the United States for 26 years and a didi for 38. She also has a sister who is a didi.

“I feel I’m the richest person in the whole world,” she said, noting her guru, whom she referred to several times as her “master.”

“Money doesn’t get you what you really need… It will buy you clothes and other things, but you cannot find infinite happiness in temporary things,” she said.

She said the spiritualistic movement includes a belief in universalism — that everything on Earth was created by one entity. They don’t believe in nationalism, as “We believe all humanity are indivisible,” she said.

And aside from mediation and yoga being a central part of it, so is a special diet that is vegetarian, and excludes eating onion, garlic, mushrooms because they can “stir your mind” and interfere with meditation.

According to the “Seva Boutique” section on the Edge of the Woods website, “there is only giving and no question of taking. “

The spiritual guru, philosopher and founder of Ananda Marga, Sri Sri Anandamurti, founded the Women’s Welfare Department of the organization in May 1965, creating the didi role, “to uplift women in all the physical mental and spiritual spheres,” according to the market’s website.

Some examples of those who benefit from the work of didis around the world — including from the Seva Boutique — are schools, orphanages, medical clinics, vocational training centers for women and girls.

The Seva Boutique web area says the movement urges social consciousness, “especially around women, so that they are inspired to rise, abolish dogma and annihilate all symbols of slavery and a share in a new era of coordinated cooperation and glorious achievement.”Read more at:sexy formal dresses

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