As I draped the grey, charcoal saree over my body, I felt the mixed sensuous fabric of soft linen, cotton and the sheen of silk drape over me like a poem. This poem I have given it a name, calling it Mahua from Label Zohra. The sari was woven in Chhattisgarh, the land of the unhindered Mahua wildflower.
Bordering Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, there lies this untouched little place in India, lost in time and a history that doesn’t reach our textbooks. Only recently the limelight it got was because of the Naxal movement there.
I travelled extensively as a child with my parents. Both argumentative, creative, quintessential Bengalis with an unending thirst of discovering places, cultures and history, which was part of my growing up years. I clearly recall the trip to Chhattisgarh and into the village of Bastar.
The dusty road was narrow and little homes surround this insignificant place in India. But Baba was keen I go and watch the Mahua flowers in bloom. After all, I was named after this flower. I couldn’t fathom why the Adivasis there worshipped this flower and danced on its nectar. Today, I understand the Adivasis perfect harmony in life with nature and the deep love for it. Nostalgia with things associated with memory is a strange kind of a love affair. And after so many years, the memories that were tucked away into some corner of the mind were awakened out of its deep slumber. Suddenly, the mention of names and places evoke memories that were long lost and buried in time.
Ruma Of Label Zohra is another wanderer like me. She lives her dreams with her art in her fabrics. I had never laid eyes on a contemporary Batik sari and I have often lamented that art and craft need to evolve with the passage of time, retaining its intrinsic identity. But at the same time, art and craft also need to be adaptable to the changing moods of fashion; Label Zohra just nailed this.
Ruma told me that she wanted to do something different with her creations. She did the Batik printing in Sanganer in Rajasthan which is famous for the Sanganeri prints. In all my yearly visits to Rajasthan, I never found a Batik in the craft of the mighty Saraswati river dyes and prints. And Ruma decided to introduce the art of Batik with Label Zohra, to create this eclectic mix of upcycled yarn, which doesn’t shrink and stays looking mint fresh, even if draped from dusk to dawn.
Batik has been part of Indian clothing and culture for the last 2000 years. It’s origin is in Java and was introduced in India by the traders from the South East. Bengal has had a huge influence of the Batik tye and dye which was also introduced as part of the syllabus in the University of Shanti Niketan, Calcutta. It’s resurgence began among the artists there and over the years many different types of fabric were being used to create more of this art.
I am hopeful with artists like Ruma and her Label Zohra, she is bridging the gap between the lost voices of the weavers and their craft. Some arts and crafts truly need a reintroduction in our lives. This collection is a tribute to the earthy, subtle tones of warp and weft in the sarees. It is ironic that when an art form dies we lament its loss. Yet, when it is here we overlook the struggle it requires to upkeep a tradition.
I will wear this saree and dress myself up, like as though I would be meeting my worst enemy and I need to say aloud, that the wilder I grow, the more you miss me, a tamed woman is a boring creature. I find my elegance over the years with Indian arts and crafts and I know money can never buy sophistication and style. Either you own it or you don’t.
This endeavour towards the crafts of India is being taken forward at the curated show called the Shringar Of Sindh at the Le Meridien, on 13th May from 10 AM to 8 PM.
The exclusively curated Lifestyle and Fashion Exhibition – Deepanjali 2019 – will showcase designer wear, diamond jewellery, accessories, footwear, home decor and more. This endeavour is the latest in a series of initiatives taken up by Sindhi Youth Association Ladies Wing over the years, to help the marginalised sections of our society. The funds collected this year will be used to create an endowment for cancer care. The interest accrued from this will be primarily used to help in the early detection and prevention of cancer. The Sindhi Youth Association Ladies Wing endeavours to make a difference to the lives of the recipients, in their own small way.
So buy a product of love towards a cause and help light up the lives of the needy and deserving.