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.
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.