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Delhi, Fashion Clothes, Indian Fashion, nostalgia

Cross Stitch Crossed Over

April 8, 2019
Moody Mo

Every time I visit home which still remains Delhi because as the adage goes – once a Delhi girl always one. I never miss visiting Bahri Sons, my favourite book shop at Khan Market, there is also Anokhi with its winding staircase. To my surprise, at the back lane, I found a shop window that had the promise of a good premenstrual syndrome cure. The joy of retail when the world seems like a tilted space and only tilting towards the ones you feel has it all. I opened the glass door with the confidence of a woman who knew the difference between Pinot, Sauvignon and Reisling. The journey has been long from watching the posh who had travelled extensively and knew the difference between their wines and their Bubbly. And me as usual said anything in white wine because I remember my mouth had turned red after a glass of red,  almost like the paan stains that my aunt had, post the Sunday staple Bengali mutton curry rice.

I saw the obnoxiously exorbitant priced clothing that had tons of sequins and gold trimmings. I stared at them thinking and amused, who would wear those garish outfits. But I did quick forgiveness, I knew I was in Delhi, where more is less. My eyes fell upon a wooden bangle that was encased in blue silk with cross-stitch embroidery on it. I found that the bangle fit my wrists which is small in comparison to my ankle. I loved telling the sales girl that I need the smallest size bangle. After those years of having put on weight and my brutally honest father saying, “hey you look square these days”. So asking for the small size is like you talk to yourself reiterating that it’s been a journey.

Cross Stitch has never left my mind ever. I recall this embroidery that we were taught in my school Loreto Convent. It is embroidery that most young girls are taught so that they learn to embroider, record alphabet and sew in her household items to identify its owner. They wanted us to be the epitome of the perfect little women from a Jane Austen novel, who could play the piano, sing do re mi, embroider and say her A and O with the perfect rounding of the lips. Oh damn! I could think of more interesting things to do with rounding my lips.

I think the little rebel in me was growing its little unhindered horns. The day they told me that cross stitch produces a symmetrical image as both warp and weft fabrics are evenly spaced, I knew even surfaces are not for me. My fingers refuse to thread the needle. My Ma did most of my homework of cross stitch patterns and told me not to tell anyone. She didn’t know,  I didn’t need tutoring there. I kept quiet under the beady owl eyes of the Welsch nun who knew I would never follow her path ever. I was a master liar.

Cross Stitch is used widely in Palestinian embroidery. So for the love of Gaza, I will buy cross stitch wherever I find it aesthetically used. I don’t need to learn embroidery to be the perfect Loreto lady. I can buy it or better get someone to buy it for me. On the outside, I am the perfect cool and calm person but deep down I know how lesser I felt in those classes of “lady making” when I couldn’t thread the needle.

On lonely summer evenings, I recall those silences when I returned home from the hills with half done embroidered doilies. Today, I know half done is good because it leaves space overtime to complete the half done pieces. It’s never ever too late.

Delhi, Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Jama Masjid, nostalgia

The Sensual Sheen Of Velvet

April 3, 2019
Moody Mo

It was one of those days when I recalled the lost nostalgia of Delhi’s Chandni Chowk lane at that twilight hour. The regal remnants of the Jama Masjid juxtaposed against the large ugly black wires hanging precariously over rooftops. In that chaos of rickshaws, human beings all rushing towards destination unknown. I sit back quietly and admire the untouched beauty of the place. Sitting at the Kashmiri Wazwan restaurant which overlooks the Jama Masjid, I order for my nun cha and watch the handsome Kashmiri men and beautiful women, unaware of their natural abundance of beauty. I know this makes them even more beautiful. The beauty that is unhurried and without any effort.

I love this trip into nostalgia. I soak in the ambience and watch the stores that are full of Islamic clothing. There are hijab stores and more. I am transported into mini Pakistan. The shops selling kebabs, men with kohl-smeared eyes and their Pathani suits. I spot a green sharara kameez. I am lost in the sheen of the green and the minimalist zardosi work on the pockets.

I walked up to Ajmal Khan’s store, which had a board written in Urdu calligraphy. He welcomed me in. Showed me many Pakistani sets that blew my mind. Told me names of serials that he loved watching and his customers too. So he dressed them up like the women of the serials. He found me staring at the green velvet set. He called it Noori.

He held Noori against himself and said it was the colour for me. I told him I was a Bengali. He didn’t believe me and said my zubaan was clear. I couldn’t tell him about my first crush who spoke chaste Urdu. I had learnt the difference between Zalim and Jalim; jalim as a Bengali would say.

He negotiated the price of the velvet kurta over a cup of tea and a samosa. I couldn’t say no to him. I went into the trial room and put on the kurta. It fit me like a dream. The sharara length needed to be altered because my height was of a petite Bengali woman, not the Pakistani serial heroines. He said, “Give me 15 minutes and I will get this done”.

Velvet because of its softness has a high cost of production. Velvet was introduced in Baghdad during the rule of Harun Al Rashid by Kashmiri merchants. We also have Ibn Battuta who mentioned that royalty of Mali wore that fabric as a caftan on Eid. Here, I was feeling like royalty wearing the abundance of this regal fabric.

I recalled the days of my life in those lanes. My ride into the known lanes of Delhi 6 was always with my friend from school Shimonti Sinha. We, two Bengali women were high on romance and hunger of the past. We didn’t speak at times, we would just look at each other and know that it caught our senses unaware.

I pack my green velvet kurta and walk past the lane of Ballimaran, home of the great poet Mirza Ghalib. That large door still has the Mughal architecture. I see Kashmiri men in Pathani suits standing against the door. They have large bags of walnuts and kesar. They look tired from the unrelenting reality of restarting life outside their home. I understand that he too searches every day for a release from this hard life in the capital of our country.

I did wear the Green velvet kurta without any jewellery. The kurta spoke aloud that evening against the sequined black western outfits of other women. What Indian clothing does to me is incomparable to any western outfit. I guess style is when it’s in your skin, when it is forced it kills the inherent nature of dressing up like you own the space.