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Art & Culture, Clothing

The New Snob In The Block Called Khadi

June 20, 2019
Khadi bustier

When a bright brick red bustier hangs from the mighty colossal hangers of vanity, you are confused what to feed the ever growing, demanding devil. Amidst all that predicament, shouts out a soft voice inside you. It gravitates towards the memories of the past. In those racks I found the soft silks, the flowing georgette, the linen, the cotton and in all that is the rough exterior but soft to touch, the lost story of Khadi. It is hanging on to its last remnants of survival with hope of a new beginning.

The bustier by Mishe is an ode to the age old fabric of India. A fabric that has seen the blood of the martyrs of India. We had forgotten Khadi in this quest of wanting more. We sold our loyalty quite easily to the arrival of mixed unnatural fabrics. And now is emerging the revival of Khadi in the haute couture of India. Leading designers are creating designs with the long lost unsung protagonist called Khadi.

This bustier fabric of Khadi was woven in Barmer, Rajasthan, in the dusty little town – where its arid landscape and cattle fair makes it known among the tourists. Barmer was known as Mallani in the 12th century. Over time, places have changed their geographical demeanour and the onset of modernisation destroyed moderation. The cattle fair is still a tourist crowd puller. In Barmer lies a small fort on top of the city, also known as Barmer Garh. This has been witness to the changing hands of history of this region.


Khadi bustier by Mishe

Khadi bustier by Mishe


Mishe, like many designers today, are inspiring artisans and craftsmanship to incorporate the legacy of Khadi into the contemporary fabric landscape. A fabric that was considered coarse and not chic, is the choice of fabric and runways in many fashion shows today.

My relationship with Khadi dates back to my grandfather, who loved me dearly and I called him Dadu. As Ma rebelled against her in-laws in moving out of the ancestral family home. She was 22 and a young mother in Shillong. A town where she knew no one except the faith she had in her husband – my father. He settled her at home just in the initial phase and then he began his travelling job. She was lost in that large Bengali household. They were hostile to her. As she packed to leave with her little girl of few months, Dadu came from Delhi to help her settle with her little daughter.

Dadu lived with us till I was in class 2 and I still recall the winter and rain drenched streets of Shillong as he waited for me to finish school and he stood there, behind the tall walls of my school – Loreto Convent – in his Khadi Bandhgala coat. He endearingly called me Didimoni. His stories were about kingdoms and prince and princesses. As he got me ready, he used to dress me after school in a yellow embroidered Khadi coat. The winters were bitter and the money wasn’t sufficient. Khadi helped keep the cold away. Ma was ambitious and wouldn’t settle for anything less than a chaste Convent education for her only child. I didn’t understand how she navigated her loneliness, her financial situation and total lack of support from her extended family.

Today I bow my head to this historical fabric that has seen the changes of India. It is again on its way of resurgence with elegance and a snobbery of belonging to the thinking masses.

The Khadi boutiques and fashion shows have Khadi as the order of the day. I smile every time I see a Khadi clothing. I know somewhere in those folds lie my memory of Dadu, those winding lanes of wet and cold Shillong, the big umbrella covering the constant rain and he waiting for me in his Khadi jacket. It was frugal in comparison to the other fabrics of those years. Today it’s reaching a place in the wardrobes of the richer and I am smug at this yearning of youngsters to belong to the new India.

Art & Culture

Story On A Scroll

January 4, 2019

As you travel to West Bengal, the art form can be distinguished by the identity of each district. You have the Bankura Horses, the Phulia taant, the Kantha embroidery, the Baluchari and so on, the list is endless. What stays entrenched is the kitschy art form called the Pattachitra. This is a cloth based scroll painting that is known for its intricate details as well as the mythological narratives and folk tales inscribed on it.

Today, Pattachitra artists have found recognition internationally. Apart from painting in scrolls they have, in a very minuscule way, started creating clothing with the same art form in stoles and dupattas.

The excellent play of colour is part of rural Bengal and there is a controversy regarding the dates of the ancient patuas. This art form dates back to the Pre Pala period and is still tucked away in small villages of Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia and other parts of 24 Parganas.

The colours are dense and natural. They represent the cultural traditions of creating Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Every Pattachitra has a song attached to it and the Patuas sing to you songs of folklore.

I felt the songs of Pradip Patua sear into my being. The innocence of his eyes. His folded jeans over his ankle and his rubber Bata chappal were telling me a story. His story of having walked miles in search of lost souls who could drown in his village tunes. He said, “don’t buy anything, just hear me sing”. How could I deny him his occupied space in my heart. I knew I would drown into his story of struggle about making his songs live through his art. He was simple to the point of it being a fault.

That evening, I returned to my urban space of artists, city slickers who all know how to negotiate a price for their art. I found myself feeling suffocated among the arrogant aware.

Pradip Patua stays with his innocence and I pray he finds a person who will open up his art and world. And he never needs to request anyone to listen to his songs ever.

I told him the world is round and the universe has a strength that we can’t comprehend. In that sphere he will find his space under the sunshine and his Pattachitra colours will burn bright into an endless prism.

As he folded his canvas I saw him smile at me. Unsure yet with a stoic gaze of an artist. I knew that look from deep inside of my being. It was of hope and wanting freedom from the clutches of poverty.

Art & Culture, Clothing

Thrifty Yet Beautifully Artsy-The Kantha Art

December 28, 2018
Kantha Saree

The Kantha is the passing of emotion and art, combining the love, fear, and hope of the homes in rural West Bengal. It is a distinct style of the Bengali embroidery of running stitches. Often used for a newborn, to wrap the child in a Kantha blanket and cover. The fragrance of an old sari of your grandmother or mother is reused with layers of soft cloth in between. It’s is a recycled form of embroidery as the thread used is pulled out of the old sari. All the women in Bengal villages learn this meticulous artwork of turning worn-out rags into beautiful blankets. This combination of frugal with the fabulous aesthetic is a sign that art resides in those nooks and corners of a poor home, where a child’s squall is treated with a lullaby because the jute or terracotta coin cache is empty. They wrap the child in a Kantha, praying to the spirit of the sun, moon and the skies above to keep her safe and healthy.

When the evening sets its crimson over the pond with the lotus and the moss. You find mothers wrapping their newborn in those covers and lighting the kerosene lantern signing the Laxmi hymn. Lest bad times fall on her baby and her home.

Often mothers start making a Kantha when the daughters have reached puberty to gift her during her marriage. It’s a ritual practised in rural Bengal. The dead are also wrapped in a Kantha before the cremation. I marvel, as I see this play of life and death with a form of embroidery that has been passed on through generations.

Today there are beautiful exquisite Kantha saris that one would wear with elan. The base is Tussar or cotton with the play of running stitches over it. Those running stitches have a story of flowers, peacocks, parrots, other birds and motifs over the fabric.

Kantha Saree

Kantha Saree

I spoke to Shabnam who hails from Murshidabad and she runs the Street Survivors endeavour in bringing women together who are creating different styles of Kantha embroidery to earn a livelihood.

She spoke passionately about the women who are returning what they learnt from their grandmothers and mothers.

The Kantha teaches us that old torn & worn out fabric has the softness and comforting feeling of a mother’s lap. As she shields you from the raging sun and the drenching rain. You know the cover that you create is one from your past. Of watching your grandmother stitch and sing even after losing her husband and watching her children abandon her. She sings into the needle with her old worn saris. Because those saris have a story and the scent of her transition from the matriarch to the woman shorn of colour, sexual longing, and any indulgence called living and life.

As she looks with her broken glasses into the spit softened thread to put into the needle eye. I see her surrender to her fading femininity and what remains is her acceptance that she is no longer needed, as much anymore.



Art & Culture, Clothing, Travel

Song Of Sanganer

December 13, 2018

Traveling to Jaipur with school friends for my birthday was a trip reminiscing the days of no money. Fights over some grace marks to make it through some exam, somewhere deep conversations about lost friendships, our first love and how life was slowly changing shape in our eyes. What seemed important earlier isn’t so any longer. What we craved for seemed so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. We spoke about losing parents, divorce, children flying the nest. Most evenings we dressed up to drink in style and fight over which song to sing or hear. As the night progressed the voices got louder, we laughed at all our heartbreak and recalled the stupid men we loved and lost. We also promised friendship that would last as long as we could take a trip together and visit each other’s homes. As the night progressed the vodka was finally doing all the conversations. Crying, laughing and blown we planned the next day itinerary to visit Sanganer.

The promise was to start early but as always vodka decides when we can pull ourselves out of that haze of the night before. We all sauntered out at the nick of breakfast closing time. Again forgot time sat and eventually decided to take the dusty road to Sanganer village, the hub for block printing of Rajasthan. It was a fun road trip into the narrow lanes with traders selling wholesale fabrics. There were shops that sold bed linen with the typical dyes and motifs of Rajasthan.

Sanganer town is known world over for its colourful block printed textiles and hand made paper. Most tourists are taken on that route for an excursion to witness the micro, small and medium printing units running in that little town. The people there are dependent on the Sanganeri print industry for their livelihood. It’s an art form that has been passed on through the generations.

Rajasthan being a dry arid land, the dye from Sanganer has the Saraswati river water that flows through the colours of the print that is radiant of the naturally dyed fabric.

This art form is 500 years old, it gained popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries in all European countries with its calico prints. It was one of the major exports from the East India Company. The Chhipa caste engage in this block printing technique and is a coveted art form and the pride of so many homes outside Sanganer.  The aesthetic styles just adds so much sophistication to a drab ambiance in any home or a garment with its traditional motifs and the colour scheme.

In Sanganer we see the perfect union of the two most volatile religions of India create art together. The Chhipas are Hindus and they are involved in the washing,  dyeing, and the printing process. The block makers are the Muslims of Sanganer. A lesson which the rest of India could learn from this sleepy, dusty town forgotten by us city dwellers.

As I went mad seeing all the swathes of fabric around me. I picked up my bag with the loot of  Sanganer. I realised I was carrying marigold, peacocks, jasmine and javakusum flowers in my memory of the holiday. And I know everytime I wear the fabric I bought from that dusty town, the fragrance of the river and the mud scent stays on my body. I know I can also remember the silence with which we drove back from that trip. Each of us prisoners in our thoughts, hoping next year would be different from this one.

We trudge on and Sanganer continues with its belief that no matter what. Art will live a life full, in its fabrics, music and the fading sun of Rajasthan.

Sanganer is a song that needs no tune, it’s hums on its own scales, reaching a crescendo, that beauty, art, and belief are immortal in this universe.



Accessories, Art & Culture

Love For Lac

December 10, 2018
Lac Bangle

As you travel into Rajasthan you find women wearing the traditional lac bangles. These bangles are bright coloured designs that you find on the wrists of the desert women.

Lac is a resinous substance secreted by an insect called the Kerria Lacca. This insect hosts itself on the branches of the Peepal tree and forms an encrusted layer around it. The coated branches are cut sieved and washed to remove all the impurities. This natural seed lac is used to make bangles. The lac is mixed with stone powder and heated and carved over hot coal. Natural colours from vegetables are used to make them colourful.

The Manihar family is the traditional lac bangle maker and Iqbal Sheikh tells us his journey of travelling far and wide in taking this art form into the cites.

Iqbal doesn’t yet understand the preference of colours in cities and is still creating rural gaudy colour. But Iqbal is sharp and realises his next visit, he would create subtle colours in his bangle collection.

I hope we give artisans like Iqbal a place under the sun so that the Kerria lac insect and its creation is acknowledged and what is being offered as a gift for the wrists of the woman in you and me.

Lac is love between the tree and its inhabitants. As the numerous insects who climb and live on its bark. The Peepal tree nurtures the Kerria. For more resin and more bangles. Let the trees grow into branches, green supple leaves and flowers. The insects will find its nectar. The nectar in turn will nurture its reward of resin.

Like a woman who loves with all her heart and feels the magic of its emotion on her heart and soul. The lac is also a tedious labour of love of the bangle maker who travels through Rajasthan adoring the wrists of women from home to home.

Lac will lose its lustre if you cut trees and the shade it gives to the bangle maker who travels far and wide for his muse.



Art & Culture, Travel

Beast In Her Eyes And Beauty In Her Soul.. My Lost Banjaran Beauty

December 1, 2018
Banjara Community

Do you recall sights that stay back long after you have left? Traveling through the desert landscape, this is what stayed in my heart. The nomadic tribe of Rajasthan also called the Banjara community.

They find direction with the moon showing them the way ahead. On moonless nights they sing into the dark. Their songs are of death, birth, love and never about possession. They are born free and die free of shackles. The entire birth and death cycle for the Banjara community is in sync with nature. The absolutely gorgeous Banjara women are sexually free and it shows in their unhindered attitude towards all that is present and lost in life and in transitions.

Traveling wherever they find a space to pitch a tent and live in a  community. Through the torn tents, they look into the moonlight through their kohl-rimmed eyes. Those beautiful eyes have stories of valor, no fixed space to sleep or live forever. Their art is evident on their embroidery and the jewellery that they wear. It’s jewellery made out of camel bone, silver that’s chunky and it’s a statement piece. The astonishingly beautiful earrings, the bangles are always up to their elbows with tattoos around their strong arms and face.



I often wanted to understand what makes them so secure in spite of not understanding the concept of what makes urban folk finish their lives in an endeavour of tirelessly seeking security. A home with loans, a car, a better lifestyle with every passing year. Yet all urban souls want to be free. Every conversation I have with 40-year-olds and sometimes younger is they want to run away from the daily grind of a harsh city life. The narrow walls of their home just swallow them up over the years. I find myself every now and then dreaming of a life away from this hustle bustle into a small hill station. Where my identity is just me and my longing for life itself.

I met Rajjo from that tribe of the Banjara women. She was shamelessly sexy and knew it. Her slim waist was held with a ghagra and her backless blouse was invitingly showing her dark smooth back. Her hair unclean, her eyes filled with stale leftover Kajal. I smiled at her. She smiled back at me with such greed. I found that intimidating yet was being pulled into her absolute carefree abandon. The unclean hair was tied back in a braid with a mangtikka. I told her I loved her jewellery. She said she loved my watch. Her eyes shining with greed and like a seasoned thief who knew how to steal hearts and spit into the face of doom.

Rajjo squinted into the sunlight and said you give me your watch and you can get my earrings. Even before I could react her hands were outstretched. I knew Rajjo has negotiated her entire life with lives, hopes, and desires. Yet she stood all aware of her sexuality and youth.

I took off my watch and she gave me her earrings. We exchanged a bit of our souls in that transaction. I was seeking abandon. My ankles were chained by unmet wants and attachments of my material world. And she was free from any attachment to space or identity of a place. I asked her if I come next year again, on this Jodhpur’s blue-walled wilder side of life. She shrugged her shoulders and said “give me your earrings also”. I was smiling with ease, she continued to ask for more and more. I took them off and put it in her hands. Shamelessly, she put them in her pouch without looking at me. I knew I can never be this gypsy soul seeking more and more without ever delving deeper.



Art & Culture

Sindoori Saree and the Hibiscus Flower

October 24, 2018
Sindoori Sari and the Hibiscus Flower

Red is the colour of passion. It denotes the feisty spirit of the goddess who is more powerful than all gods. Red is the colour of Sindoor, the colour of marriage and fertility. The Goddess Kali embodies Nari Shakti or the intuitive strength of the goddess in you and me. She is appeased with the offering of red hibiscus flowers on her lotus feet.

Women around India covet the red saree as a symbol of tradition for a bride on her special day. From villages to small towns and big cities, red is the colour of love and passion and a red bindi on a woman’s forehead, resting on her intuition chakra is a reminder of her innate strength and power.

One day, I watched the fading sun and the sky turn crimson I knew this was the hour when a young bride would meets her man in the mustard fields. She knows her face will be cupped by him while the sun throws its last shade of crimson against her skin. It is called the magic hour. In rural India it is called the Godhuli Lagan the hour when the cows are returning to their sheds and the, birds are flying to their nests. From afar one can see the cows and the calves walking in harmony while their hooves kick dust into the resting skies. Nature melds the dull brown mud and the yellow of the fading sun into a blurring ember of sindoori skies.

Vermillion in my hair parting is also my marital status. I tuck the bloomed red hibiscus flower behind my ears. It compliments the gold stud on my ear lobes. As I start unfolding my red saree to start tucking its corners in my petticoat. I find a few petals falling from the folds onto the floor. They remind me of the untold story of the hibiscus flower and stories of Draupadi, the tribal mythological warrior goddess. We have so many women in India whose inner Draupadi is quietened. What instead, is there, is a model subservient Hindu wife, with sindoor. Today, even symbols of power and subjugation appear at odds with the demands of modern India.

I marvel at the constant incompatibility and inner conflict of these two paradigms that are constantly hand in hand striving and striking out rules that are increasingly becoming irrational in modern India.

Yet vermillion still stays the colour of lust, fertility, prosperity and the general representation of the goddess in you. It is an evocative and lyrical expression of beauty. Red remains the colour of all things profound and provocative. It falls and rises with the contrasting sun rays across the seasons and the myriad of cycles of a woman’s life.

Like the red that flows through our veins, the red saree keeps alive our tradition and vibrance. The red saree embodies the range of moods and avatars of women… The deity, the goddess, the passion, the love, the fertility, the demure woman, the anger, the outrage and the woman you are today!

Find a saree to match your mood at The Saree Story on October 25th and 26th at Valecha Hall, Juhu, Mumbai.

Art & Culture, Clothing

Desires and Dreams We Fold Into Our Benarasi

October 5, 2018
Desires and Dreams We Fold Into Our Benarasi

Have you ever caught the sunlight on rumpled up silk? When you carelessly keep a saree unfolded and silently watch its splendour. Your gaze learns that the saree that has a story, it lies crumpled carrying the fragrance of the wearer. I recall the first Benarasi my Baba gifted me for my cousin’s wedding. It was a soft beige silk with gold interwoven with black silk thread. It was soft, subtle and with a vintage appeal. I wore that saree and recall the silk all over my body. It engulfed me sensuously. Wearing that saree was like an act of the drama. All my emotions played out with beige, gold and black.

For all Bengali weddings. The bride is always dressed in a Benares weave. You travel all the way to Benares with your aunt and cousins to buy the saree in which you will feel the most beautiful! Woven with the Benarasi art that stays coveted among us. For each of us, the wedding saree is always a Benarasi.

It’s a common thing when we catch someone wearing a beautiful saree for a special occasion, most often a Bengali would comment, is this your wedding Benarasi?  Yes you beam with pride. This it was, the wedding benarasi saree, its poise and position weighing much above anything you desired. And you smile and tell them, that the Benarasi is packed with naphthalene balls in a muslin cloth bag that you want to retain for posterity.

I still recall, Abha Mashi or my maternal aunt who was all set to be married. The shopping had been done. The haldi or turmeric bath was over when we received the call of doom. The wedding had been stalled because the groom said  Abha Mashi is loud and not petite enough to be a bride.

There was mayhem in the Bhattacharya household that day. I was too young to comprehend the angst of rejection that she faced.

I saw Abha not talk to anyone for months to come. Many years later, I saw her room door half open and I caught her glimpse against the sunlight.  She was holding her to be wedding Benarasi saree against her skin… and the fading sun was catching her reflection in the mirror. Her grey hair disheveled and her eyes ignited with anger and rejection.

She put the saree down on the four poster bed and wept like a torn princess. I just saw the saree catching the sunlight and the Benarasi silk lay crumpled but beautifully preserved. She sat staring at it.

I pushed the door and she saw me look towards her. She beckoned me and held my petite adult hands, and said this is for me.”Wear it on your wedding night”. I could not refuse. I accepted that saree, for it was her pride and dignity that she preserved in it for all these years. She was now ready to give it away and let it have the meaning it was meant for. To be a young petite brides adornment. She, at last, freed it. She had come out of it. Not longing anymore for it to protect her.  I accepted her Saree and helped her find closure.

My Benarasi collection in my cupboard has Abha Mashi’s saree. I keep her saree, which is also her memory with a reverence that somewhere she is looking down at me. Her anguish lies still among the unspoken stories of women rejected. I know this will stay forever with me like the constant activity in the Ghats of Benares where lies the looms that continue this saga of the creation of a dream, nurtured by women all over.

Benares is born every day with a newness that only a Benarasi lover can appreciate.

Benares Kash, a curated show brings the celebration of the holy city’s finest weaves to Mumbai. Organised by Pause for a Cause, it promises to harmoniously blend together the age old art of Benarasi weaves with today’s contemporary styles. Presenting  the finest handcrafted saris, dupattas, fabrics, contemporary clothing and heritage textiles and weaves – each one lovingly designed using techniques that have been passed on through generations.

The  brilliance of Benarasi textiles is something that every girl, woman and mum should enjoy and treasure.

Visit us on the 11th and 12th of October at the Coomaraswamy Hall, CSMVS, Kala Ghoda, Fort Mumbai.

Art & Culture, Travel

Benares Where The Looms Continue Irrespective Of Life And It’s Events

September 24, 2018
Benares Where The Looms Continue Irrespective Of Life And It’s Events

Here is India’s largest, at times ludicrous yet all the time thriving and living congregation of India’s Hindus. The city is peppered with the constant drama of life, that flows in an union with the dance of living this paradise called life. You would have envy and be awestruck at the acceptance of this cyclic nature here. One side is the famous weaves and the rustling silks, on the other a strange method to this madness called Benares. This madness is called hope.

As I sip my lassi and enquire the direction towards the wholesaler of Benarasi sarees. A body passes by me that chants Ram Naam Satya Hai. I stop midway between gulp and guilt at my question for my vanity. But as usual, Benares beckons you laughing and gurgling. This is life here. An ending and unending, tireless yet tired.

My Baba had taken me to Varanasi as a 16-year-old. Navigating the ghats of Manikarnika watching the souls seeking salvation. The sense of this chaos stayed back and it taught me lessons. That my inflated ego and obscene ambitions were all transient. Benares continues whatsoever. Flowing peacefully with the ugly and the beauty hand in hand.

Baba got me my first Benarasi sari from the looms there. I was guilt ridden for forgetting the fire from the pyres quite like a stoic soul. And the moment I saw the colours of the Benarasi saris being unfolded near me. Luring me that life goes on. It had overtaken my heart and
senses. I humbly understood that Benares had taken over me. Moments you are a disheveled and next moment you are deliciously decadent, discovering the vain in self. I caught a glimpse of myself in a broken mirror opposite the shop floor and I quickly held the sari against my skin and it looked pretty and pristine. Momentarily my grief was buried under the swaths of silken fibre and folds.

My nostalgia for the past is a constant companion. I knew I had to do this trip again with my son who was leaving for London in a week. I wanted him to experience the Ganges on the Ghats, the snake-like traffic and roads that were filled with paan stains and potholed. In that chaos, you have to find life, was what I was trying to teach my little one. I knew his innocent 17 year old mind, wasn’t grasping this juxtaposition of life, looms and love. I called it, fidelity to the faith called India.

We were directed to the most popular lassi shop of Benares on the path leading to Manikarnika Ghat and the small ubiquitous shops that had saris and more saris. Stacked one on top of the other. The lassi shop owner who was constantly chewing paan and had a red mark on his forehead spoke to me with his absolute delectable Bhojpuri Hindi that his lassi shop was the best in Benares. He seemed to know everyone there and told me if I needed any help with any information. He would be happy to help.

I finally gathered all the information from my walking, talking Benarasi directory,  of where to go and which galli to enter to find the looms and the artists,  behind those voluminous yards of silk, gold, silver and the typical Benarasi decadence.

I navigated my way between dead bodies being carried and the queue of the family following. And it was only men who did this act of bravery. I found my looms selling and creating those masterpieces of vanity and beauty forever.

What I found was mind-boggling. There were paisleys,  flowers, tantric circles and birds all celebrating life, made with zari on the saris. I touched the silk against my skin and felt it’s softness against my own. The colours were mixed with eclectic ease of an artist. I remember
how everyone would say at my wedding I would wear The Benarasi weave. This is what hopes and dreams are made of.  I couldn’t negotiate the price. Because art has no price. It is priceless, ethereal and ephemeral. The Paisley was delicate and the parrot was fertility. There are no price tags to this confluence of India’s best weave.

As I packed my saris. I heard the loom clank against each other in the creation of another sari and another sound that was side by side of a dead body being carried away. Her birth and death live in complete harmony. I understood that as long as we live, we love, possess and also give in to the beauty and the beast inside us. Both together and both separate. But both in tandem in this dance of life, death and the looms of the weavers of Benares.

Benares Kash – a curated show promises to harmoniously blend together the age old art of Benarasi weaves passed on from generation to generation. Come be a part of this splendor where you can directly be in touch with the real creators of the Benarasi fabrics and garments on the 11th and 12th of October in Mumbai at the Coomaraswamy Hall, CSMVS.



Accessories, Art & Culture

The Conch Shell Bangle

September 3, 2018
The Conch Shell Bangle

Childhood memories stay like a sepia film entrenched into your being like it never left. You grow up and move away from all the nitty gritty of the childhood jigsaw puzzle. Some of that puzzle you can fit into the missing pieces and some of them you keep searching. When I close my eyes I recall the dusk at home and my neighbours home, where mashi which is the Bengali term for aunty. Adjusts her saree and at dusk blows the conch with the terracotta incense filling into my every nerve and fiber and I watch in amazement. Her petite hands adorned with the sanka and pola. Which are the conch shell bangle and the Coral bangle which is the pola. She wore it forever. Her hands caught the light of the Diya burning into the darkness of her puja room and it felt surreal to watch that.

I never saw my MA wear that bangle.  Whenever I asked her she told me it’s too difficult to wear so much paraphernalia to prove your marital status. I found it sad. Because to me, it was just so much craftsmanship to create that thin bangle with filigree work to me was so much detailing that it drew me to watch with fascination how they create this absolute craftsmanship on something out of the sea.

Just the colour combination of red with white is appealing in so many ways to my sensibilities that have been shaped up with life experiences.
Today you find many types of the sanka bangle. Some are inlaid with gold filigree work with leaves and diamond shaped gold motifs. It’s like a trip into all things ethereal and artistic. These days I am not cowered by the idea of teaming my sanka with only my saree’s. I wear my sanka with my western wear like any traditional bangle and I can promise you that it adds so much to the entire look.
This craft of creating such minute designs on the conch shell bangles need to be elevated from just another languishing traditional art form.
Let’s embrace this with a large heart and while we buy this we know we are adding another lifespan to the creators of this craft.

So I have decided that I will gift my friends married or single this bangle the next festive season as an appreciation of its beauty and an ode to my Bengali culture that makes me the person I am today.