Mughal architecture with a fusion of the Hindu Rajput sensibilities is what the land of Rajasthan is all about. In that arid, dry landscape where water is a scarcity, we have the sturdy resilience of the desert people. And in this confluence of religious diversity and harsh weather, there are the dreamers. One such dreamer is Ram Kishore Derewala from Jaipur. A national award winner and proud recipient of the Padmashri, he marches on with his undying love and belief in the traditional craft of the block printing art of Rajasthan.
As I spoke to him, I was engulfed with the simplicity of an artist who was blissfully unaware of the fast growing commercial world of unnatural fabrics and machine printed factory clothing. He told me his story of faith and love and his journey as a craftsman. What moved me was his faith, he was very sure that his next generations would also follow this tradition of block printing. He had trust and a divine connection with block printing, that he believes would remain eternal. Just like the cycle of life itself, this would continue forever. He told me with confidence and tremendous grit that this would only get better over time.
Prasad Bidapa also is a dreamer and a believer. One can sense the passion towards arts and crafts in every interaction with him. He showcased Derewala’s collection at his Institute in Bangalore. I was fortunate to witness the array of colours, fabrics and prints on models who torched the stage with the very essence of the great Indian art and craft. Prasad being an ardent crafts crusader which sets him apart from the rest, steals my heart with his easy personality and also giving a platform to the many unsung craftsman of our country. I sat in awe and admiration watching the show and realising I can never have enough of Indian art and craft in my collection of clothing. This is my root.
As I wear the white on white Bagru printed Chanderi, with the minimalist gold edge on the borders of my sari. I know this has crossed the narrow borders of the religious divide of India. This art of block making is created by the Chippas of Rajasthan. They are the Muslim community who are master craftsmen in creating the blocks. The Hindus create the natural dyes mixing it with the Saraswati river water. And finally, what comes together are yards of fabric that has the labour of divinity and resilience of the two communities that continue bravely inspite of the odds.
A trip to Rajasthan is done like an annual ritual every winter. And each trip touches me in different ways every time. As the sun sets on the forts, I sit back and sigh with a comforting sense of the unknown. The golden light of the fading rays casts its mystery on those walls that have so many stories untold. I know we are sitting on a volcano of art and culture that hasn’t seen its pinnacle yet. As the lights go out in every home of that pink city, there is an artist born with the dream of creating magic on the canvas of his or her fabric that they hope the world would acknowledge and the commercial returns would give them the bravery to continue this passion.
In my miniscule way to support the crafts, very consciously, I never negotiate with an artist ever. My soul bleeds because I know I can never fathom the energy that has gone into creating the masterpiece.
As I walk out in my Ram Kishore Derewala sari, I feel breezy in the summer white, enveloping me in its pristine light. I know I am able to make heads turn with the finesse of the fabric and my commitment to the cause. This moment matters because this now is my eternity. The concept of tomorrow is unknown and my crusade for the crafts will continue forever.
The summer dry winds are a reminder of this constant called change. Like seasons fashion too changes. But craft remains constant.