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Bengali New Year, Indian culture, Own Life Story, Tradition

1426 In My Lunisolar Calendar

April 14, 2019
Moody Mo

It’s that time of the year again. When the roots come barging into my being. I never knew how it had such a stronghold in the essence of me being me.
Today is Poila Boisakh, the Bengali new year. To most others its ludicrous to celebrate new year in April. But to me it is a celebration of being with my quintessential Bengali parents and relatives who won’t stop discussing the freshness of a fish or the difference between the coveted Padma River Hilsa versus the Ganga Hilsa. We also talk about the latest films while lamenting the lost glory of Ray, Ghatak and the Sens.
As I sit among them we are transported into Calcutta. The shopkeepers today have started a new ledge book as the tram moves slowly through the April summer roads of my soul city. The Ganga flows unhindered towards an unknown gushing of new tidings. The lone rickshaw puller knows today is a bad day for business, because most are busy cooking and playing old Bengali songs.
I watch detached yet I know deep down how attached I am to being a Bengali. Speaking my language of love, eating my comfort food and arguing that businessmen don’t create a nation or society. It’s always the thinkers, poets, artists, musicians and academicians who bring in the new wave of thinking towards a progressive society. This is as Bengali as it gets today. Tomorrow I will be the cosmopolitan woman that I am…but tomorrow can wait.
Subho Poila Boisakh

Fashion Clothes, Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Tradition

Saris Folded With An Unheard Prayer

April 10, 2019
MoodyMo

As I entered the dark dank space of my grandmother’s room, I opened the creaking window meshed and unmeshed with cobwebs shining in the soft supple sun rays. Those cobwebs seemed to smile whenever the light fell on them. It was like such a fine art of weaving by the spiders. That light at times gave the cobwebs such character that they shone with an inherent, incredible resilience that only my curious mind could fathom and unfathom its faithfulness or unfaithfulness towards this gift called life. That unlit room had a dark wood wardrobe. In that space of unheard prayers and heard cries was Dida’s grief and grit. I saw the saris kept unused for years now. I was guilty of not giving it the sun. Just like the greedy cobwebs who had taken it all, with its selfishness to live in the grind with grit calling it life. They were not independent and they grew with the love of the nurturing spider that was trying to create a home in the dark space around that home.  

A sari wardrobe meant the world to her. Her unspoken love drama that had separation, unrequited emotions that were wobbling like the sinking boat. Her boat needed to be moored. Her movements were at times shaky and sometimes firm. I saw her dreamboat when she touched the saris. They shook & also became still. Her saris were her refuge. She had matching blouses with her couture collection. Her fashion sensibility was like an ode to her vintage era. Blouses had puffed sleeves and lace. And her saris were worn with elan for her evening soirée with my Dadu, my grandfather and her much older husband. Her couture collection was a mix of Patolas, Jamdani, Benarasi and Tangail, Kantha and there were colours that were tasteful and elegant. When I opened that sari ki almirahs and its heavy wooden door, I could feel her presence around me. I remembered how I saw her change her wardrobe over the years. She wore subtle and bright weaves with the passage of time. Her weaves were a reflection of her mood for the day.

And then overnight, when grandfather passed away. She was just propelled to wear what tradition demanded of her. A frugal, bare white sari with a small border of black, blue or green. It couldn’t even dare to touch a pink, red was a crime. It would mean she was defying the entire identity of wearing her grief on her body. Her hands were shorn of the red & white bangles and all she allowed was thin gold bangles and no earrings or a necklace. My rebellions mind was restless. I told her I missed her red bindi and her beautiful saris draped around her happy hips. She told me her bountiful body was decaying. This is the cycle of nature. Now it was my turn to wear those colours and catch the rainbow on my flight to youth and abundance. She said to strive to be Poornima, Annapurna and Mohua all weaved together in one person. Poornima was the full moonlight teasing your lover, Annapurna was the bountiful paddy fields and Mohua had to grow unhindered and be intoxicated with life. I understood only in my later years.

Her words of wisdom. Her saris won’t be forlorn anymore. I will clean the debris away from the dark dank room and allow light into that wardrobe of life. As I celebrate another day of sun and shade into that space I call freedom. I wear her saris as a reminder of her life, happy, lonely and strikingly beautiful in her appearance. Like the full moon on a dark sky. The light shining and separating me from my past into my present. I hold Dida’s sari against my bosom & I know that a sari is a passing of the guard from one generation to another.  My pink Benarasi sari is one of them from her collections. The silk has become softer but it still holds its place in a crowd of branded svelte ladies. I can feel her essence all around me.

Accessories, Amruta Dongray, Indian culture, Indian Fashion, jewellery, Rajasthan

Amruta Dongray’s Abundance Of Amrud

April 5, 2019
Moody Mo

I was navigating my path ahead with trepidation. I knew all along nothing about this relationship was okay. It was a narcissistic, mind-numbing experience. It always a game of who won that was beginning to tire me out. I was staring ahead into the unknown. Fear of ending relationships stopped me from saying my final goodbye. It’s easier to have two evenings of toxicity than have the rest of your life being alone on weekends and watching everyone having such a full life on social media.

During one of those evenings, after a fight and with a tear at the corner of my eye, I met Amruta Dongray. She is feisty and mellow, it was a rare combination to find in people. I was drawn to her infectious laughter and a huge sense of relief to meet confident women, who embody faith and grace. We got talking and she told me she had bid her farewell to Bombay to be in Bangalore. And she started her brand of jewellery called Amrud, The Abundant You. We rummaged through her collection and I was drawn to a  pair of earrings that had a moonstone embedded in its beauty.

She told me her story. The inspiration for the earring was the Jharoka and the utensils in her Maharashtrian home. The style is a mix of western sensibilities infused with an Indian essence.

Moody Mo

Moody Mo

I couldn’t help but look back at the jharoka and its existence since medieval times. This overhanging enclosed balcony is used in the architecture of Rajasthan. It is also an Indo-Islamic architecture. It served the purpose of women to see the outside world without being seen themselves.

It’s a secret world of women, where they admire the people without them knowing. You can create your own stories.

Amrud’s earrings are an ode to those hidden stories of the women behind purdah. They are the lost shadows that run against the silhouette of dusk and dawn. We just see those shadows like X-ray films. The rib cage clear against the light. The heart with blood and breath are hidden away from most others.

Lady of Jharoka urges you to say your goodbyes when the time is right. To overstay is toxic and the vision gets altered of self and the other. My earrings have a gold polish that catches the jalli reflections of light and shade.

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.

Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Tradition

Moments Of Epiphany

April 1, 2019
moodymo

As I looked out of the window, the strong iron bars that went crisscross over the mesh stopped me from forcing myself out of that boundary into the horizon. This had become home. I often sat and recalled the lost tunes of childhood, where it was an unending path ahead. I could manoeuvre into any hidden mountain creek and always found myself in a clear stream of reason & love. This probably is called growing up.

Growing up to understand that what we desire as we grow older may not always help us experience ourselves in an all-encompassing way. We forget those little spaces that need nourishment and nurturing. I had forgotten to nurture my early morning sitar Riyaz hour. It was meditative and my all-encompassing existence was in those ragas that gave me peace and familiarity. Ma had bought that sitar for me from her Provident Fund. She always dreamt big for me. I remember she bought the sitar from a music store in Darya Ganj in Delhi. Fixed my music lessons and monitored my progress like a hawk. She too woke up every morning at 5.00 am to hear me play. I never realised that she was living her dreams through me. Today, as I pen these thoughts I realise she has also passed her gift of words to me. She loves to write in Bengali. That evening, I stood against the mesh, holding on to the iron bars and like always thought for everyone, forgetting to think of myself.

I realised that over the years, I had placed my heart at the feet of all my family members. There were moments when I coiled to think that I did relish the thought of being far away from all this. This constant shout out for a home that needed attention. With ailing elders, the household was like a prison without visible walls. Those invisible walls were strengthened over time. There were times I felt I could fly out and feel the open air on my face. I pushed upwards to be hit on the head by the ceiling wall. It hit hard and I was awakened to the stupid thought. Like so many of us, who flutter inside the cage, unsure of whether our wings have the strength to take on the unknown skies. Skies that doesn’t promise you even weather. There will be torrential rains, drenching you in its fury, there will be a haunted moon, where you would bury your head in fear.

As I touched upon those thoughts. I could hear the pressure cooker whistleblowing downstairs in the kitchen. I knew one more whistle and the rice would be overcooked, then everyone would complain at home. I spoke to the skies and the iron cage. I spoke with compassion and told the clouds to come back again on another sunny day when I can leisurely talk to them. Ask them where they lived? Where they rested for the night. When rain takes baby steps does it cradle into its bosom? Does the cloud hold it or let it go? Maybe today isn’t the day for my answers. I know soon the householders would stop noticing and I would be able to continue my conversation freely with my friends, who roam freely in the skies.

The freedom that we all desire, covet and remain in its quest.

Accessories, Fashion Clothes, Gender, Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Introduction, Lifestyle, Tradition

Try To Tie Me Down And Fail Forever

March 29, 2019
Moody Mo

The hand that rocks the cradle also rules the world. Women have balanced this multitasking job since time immemorial. I looked back at the muscular smiles that mocked my femininity. Telling me oh stop! It’s not easy for a girl like you to do what you are seeking out to do. I smiled like I did, remembering the cold blue night of my loneliness and knew that this fight will go a long way ahead in time. When we are allowed to express without our own also judging us or choking our voices with their opinions.

I found Ashwini Oza another soul just like me, expressing her creative energy with her jewellery brand Arnav. I loved the necklace she has created. Her inspiration was a tie. Which mostly men wear or tie down women in submission. I was hooked on to this style statement as I held the tie silver necklace with dye motifs and an owl pendant.

My mind was raging with the imagery of my mother praying every Thursday to Goddess Lakshmi whose carrier was the beautiful white owl.

Moody Mo

Moody Mo

I understood even religious texts uphold the fairer owl as auspicious, unlike the darker owl. Dark is demonic and dark isn’t considered attractive. So many years of subjugation. Women are guilty for being dark, infertile, free-spirited or not towing the line. It isn’t a pretty sight at all for the patriarchal rules of society, when women who dare to walk out of line, are condemned as crazy.

I wore my tie necklace over my bare shoulders and I knew the light from the coloured glass pane was reflecting on my collarbone. I was waiting to be admired. I realised how we seek validation of self from the eyes of another. Never delving within to seek the source of our strength.

I decided I won’t wear my tie necklace in front & as he came in. I pushed my tie necklace behind my back. I knew my spine felt the weight of the necklace fall carelessly behind me. I moved my hair to turn and look. He barely speaks much. He just sighed and said wow!

As I bend down to strap on my sandals. I saw him staring into my face and he looked straight towards me. I knew he was tied down forever. He won’t forget this evening. It was the falling of dusk and my conditioned patriarchal moral values. All created by human beings who are frightened, of the hand that rocks the cradle and also rules his world. He felt vulnerable and I was sure, I wasn’t getting tied down ever again with the weight of his expectations from me. 

Accessories, Gender, Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Lifestyle

Pug Marks on The Moist Kumaon Hills

March 27, 2019
Moody Mo

The Himalayan Writing Retreat is nestled between mist smeared mountains and the elusive Himalayas. Mountains covered in snow with the sunlight streaming through the magnanimity of the forces of nature. I found this post on Facebook by Chetan Mahajan. It had all the promise of the writing seclusion that I was searching for.

Tired having played roles for years. Never having ever done a solo trip ever. And with strangers stuck in a place called Sathkol. It wasn’t my regular idea of tripping. But fate has a way of propelling you to your destination. I gingerly dialled the phone number from the Facebook post. Was pleasantly greeted with a nice voice that had the warmth of a wooden log on a nippy night. I tried imagining the person on the other end of the line. He was polite and encouraging. It just seemed doable. I booked myself for the single room and told him I wasn’t exactly friendly in the mornings. My marriage has rules and rule one is, no one greets me in the morning. They know I don’t fancy enthusiastic roommates in the morning. It’s my angst hour. I am angry about female feoticide, rape, inequality and with my weighing scale too.

I decided that I will go to Sathkol and for Himalayan Writing Workshop. As luck would have it. All that could go wrong with my travel happened this time. The airlines cancelled the early morning flight at 5.00 pm. I wasn’t meant to go. I didn’t join the rest in the train because I wasn’t exactly excited to have conversations all the way. This motley group of writers were all exuberant and happy unlike me. I was a grouch. The one person that I looked most suspiciously at, was another participant called Rahul.

Also, truth be told. I have always had a thing for this name Raahuuul. He was the photographer in my favourite film of Aparna Sen’s Parama. Rahul the photographer in her film was the catalyst and also the one who bought delicious doom in the much-married Rakhi’s life. And typical me,  I liked the rebellious rake Rahul of Aparna Sen’s Parama.

This Rahul was willing to send his car to drive me 10 hours into Sathkol for the writing workshop. I kept thinking what does he want in return. And suddenly in a flash, you lose logic. I agreed to take up his offer and his car with his driver. My parents were again heaving in fear. Saying, there she goes again! Now, this Rahul.

I was duly warned about North Indian men. But I had already strapped the seat belt into my ride to the unknown. I had already said, “Teri Aisi Ki Taisi” in my mind.

Rahul’s driver Mithilesh was an amiable chap and I tried bonding with him. It was midway into midnight, empty roads into the badlands of Uttar Pradesh I knew I was mocking luck and divinity. Between Mithilesh and I, we both can’t read maps and it didn’t help that he asked for directions to Google in his Bihari accent English. I was tired and realised I had an insane stubborn streak to myself that few would understand.

My parents told me that my Bengali upbringing was no good. When I should have studied I didn’t and now trusting a stranger called Rahul and it doesn’t help that he is from Delhi. They were stricken and said they shouldn’t live another day. The words fell off my ears like cacophony. They are dramatic quintessential Bengalis with a constant existential crisis. They aren’t the ones you seek when in trouble. Was most glad my phone connection was playing up. I lied saying I knew Rahul and Chetan from my advertising days. They bellowed when they heard Chetan was a Mahajan. Punjabi was always a big No, No!

We halted for the night in Rudrapur at 2.00 am. It was a cool night with stars above my head and nothingness ahead. An unknown destination with danger lurking at every bend we traversed. Mithilesh and I.

Moody Mo

Moody Mo

By now I had reached my sweet spot of leaving everyone behind without a care. It was Mithilesh and the unknown Rahul and the somewhat dependable voiced Chetan. My girlfriends were most excited with both the names. They kept saying, tell us more!

The morning I started again with Mithilesh towards my Himalayan Writing workshop. Few hours into the road and I found myself breathing the mountain air and little streams gushing out from nooks and corners. More mountain people with the easy step of familiarity and simplicity. I was in love with love again. It was 14th February, Valentine’s Day. As I passed curves and bends. Suddenly I was greeted with clearer skies and my path to destiny. I could tell my past had died a little death right there in the right now. What was ahead was the doom of finding me. Which is not easy for a troubled heart like mine. Losing the past was like a piece of your intestine cut away from you. You can’t digest it all without the sour dull feeling of being full from past pain. I was resisting this clarity and divinity. What would I hold on to, from here?

We reached The Himalayan Writing Workshop and strangers greeted me with a warmth that I was unaccustomed with. Over the years I had mastered my fake real smile. But each of them broke my resolve bit by bit. The fireplace in the corner and the floor seating was familiar from before. I did my writing with the wonderful group of 9. Realised I maybe did know how to write enough to be appreciated and read. I cried among them. The debris of the past they each took turns to heal me. The familiar word “Dumb” became a distant sound in my head. The same harsh sentence, “don’t worry your pretty head. Just enjoy life!” Those words had bruised me & broken me. Here I was again among strangers with love. I was being healed.

After a day of writing. Chetan and Vandita took us for a bit of retail therapy. We walked through the hilly road towards the store. I found wollen shawls, tea, honey and handmade soaps. I choose a beige wollen shawl. As I wrap the woven shawl by the Kumaoni women from Chirag, the NGO shop. The brand is called Kilmora and the profits from the sale of Kilmora helps run a school and a community hospital set up by Chirag. I understood again the simplicity of those meanderings of the mountains. The lights flickered ahead as dusk fell. I knew again I was face to face with divinity. I forgot my sense of self as I opened my heart at the altar of this godly abode.

As I finished my writing workshop. I recall Chetan’s words to me, “Don’t be afraid, get naked on paper”. I took his words very seriously and wrote those few days without control. It came gushing from corners that the sunlight hadn’t touched. The dark spots of my past. The numerous emotionally unavailable relationships, that I had nurtured and accepted over the years died a death there. I wasn’t accepting this second-hand love anymore. The bruised inner child came back slightly healed, slightly lost but massively hopeful.

The shawl covered my bruises and revealed the blood-soaked sides of my heart that dripped near this motley crew of Krish, Ravi, Viral, Vandita, Shabnam, Souniya, Ashwini, Karan, Rahul and Chetan. I was delirious without me knowing, that they could smell the stale blood mixed with tears on the little corners of me. They saw me like no one had in a long time.

Accessories, Fashion Clothes, Gender, Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Introduction, Lifestyle, Own Life Story, Tradition, Travel

The Lost Land Of Afghanistan That I Found in Rome

March 22, 2019
Moody Mo

Flea markets world over has been my never-to-miss spot. As usual once in Rome I tried to follow the adage – be a Roman in Rome. I got my gladiator sandals out and decided to look for Al Capone on the streets. I found many with noses that could hold a hanger with my freshly ironed robes. And was amused at the confidence levels with which they charm the panties of a celibate. The Romans are loud, emotional, proud people with a daunting history that takes you back into time. The architecture lying in ruins throughout Rome reminds you of the history books you have read as a child. The paintings and the sculptures breathing life into their stone eyes and structure keep me spellbound for more.

Opposite the river bank on a Sunday noon, are tired and hopeful shopkeepers selling art, jewellery and pasta stalls. In the midst of all this, I find the city filled with migrant labourers from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and many more places. Selling their wares with the hope of earning a good future for their families. I always find myself drawn to people whose eyes have stories. As I navigate my path into the Flea market below a long winding staircase, I am reminded of the absolute genius of this country and it’s Neo-Realism films that have inspired so many artists. I am reminded of the genius of Vittoria Di Sica’s Bicycle Thieves and the many more films that have made me weep for the protagonists.

In this flush of weeping and awe of the city and its history, in a corner, I found an open stall with the most exquisite Afghani jewellery. The shop owner was a tall, burly man with a complexion that has traces of his Afghani Roots. His eyes are proud and he is selling not because he likes to sell but has to feed himself and his family. I find myself lost in his beautiful, intricate, stone inlay traditional jewellery. It is made up of German Silver and glass with enamel inlay floral designs.

He tells me his name is Ahmed and he is a Kuchi nomad. They are the nomads from the Ghilji tribal confederacy, the largest tribe called the Pashtuns from Afghanistan. He said the poorer families wear these silver pieces because the more exorbitant things are used for the Nikkah (marriage) and those are also made with floral and crescent moon designs.

Ahmed sold me his choice of jewellery and I couldn’t say no to his gaze of hope. He said it looked beautiful on me. Rome had taught Ahmed to be a Roman in Rome. Effortlessly flirting with women who thronged his space in the flea market.

I wear my Afghan tribal jewellery with much pride. It speaks of the resilience of the nomads who are not bound by chains of settling down. I can’t help but smile at the irony of life, we the settlers who are always unsettled in our hearts. Searching for the elusive spot of sunshine and security. Unlike the nomads, they live one day at a time.

The crescent moon on my necklace is one step away from its fullness. The tiny silver on its edge is illuminated by the glass pieces reflecting the sun rays. I imagine a bride in the finery of her Afghani resplendence saying “Kubool hai, Kubool hai” even if her heart says no. I had to have Ahmed’s story on my neck.

Fashion Clothes, Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Introduction, Tradition

Desires Cut Into The Fabric Of Love

March 14, 2019
Moody Mo

My love for good things began very early on. To the utter horror of my middle-class parents, they were worried I wouldn’t ever settle for the mediocre. A factory outfit never made me feel my best, it had to be a bespoke outfit. After much thought and pondering would my tailor add the Kutch mirror work patch or the lace to give my mundane outfit its edge, and make it my statement. The aim was always adding an Indian sensibility over my denim or the check-patterned Kilt.

With this undying need to be always surrounded by beautiful things, it surely was a constant struggle with my limited income. I had that discerning eye for all good things, including my male friends. I wasn’t exactly generous at that choice, but he needed to have more than just good looks to keep my interest going. Most times, I was disappointed so I decided to put my energy into clothing that saluted an art form of India. As usual, most things had to be a cut above the rest. Being raised as a Bengali in Delhi, you are forever struggling between the two identities that you can’t fathom when which one takes over. The constant struggle of being a quintessential Bengali with the cacophony of the Peacock Punjabi. It surely was a sure shot path to schizophrenia. But my love for Rajasthan and it’s arts and crafts is a constant. Till date, it remains a passion that needs regular acknowledgement. Every week four times at least, I wear a Bandhini or a Sanganer print over my jeans, that size hasn’t remained constant. I recall the small store in the early days of fashion-hungry Bangalore at Commercial Street which had RJP, Rohit Bal, Anita Dongre and few more well-known designers. RJP always stole my heart with his fine cotton and minimalist design sensibility.

RJP is famous for his pintuck kurtas and remarkable indigos. I had to attend an elite function at Bombay; a very important second wedding of a friend. I had to look the part, so I choose this black cutwork kurta over a white crinkled skirt to wear for one of the evenings. It was my first Rajesh Pratap Singh ensemble. Cutwork is typically a technique where you cut the fabric, resulting in holes, which is reinforced with embroidery or needle lace. It originates in Italy and is called Punto Tagliato. Renaissance was the period of new things and cutwork began in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. And even in the fashion world of today, cutwork is very much prevalent and is also called lace. The hand cutwork is one of the most traditional forms of this art.

As a child, I still recall the sari petticoats that were dried in the sun with cutwork on its edges. Our home linen had cutwork on them. So cutwork was a natural draw to my senses. Senses that were carved from nostalgia and memory. RJP cutwork kurta makes me feel sensual without baring much. The arms on one side have the cutwork that reaches up to my shoulder blades. It fits like a dream and black makes me feel sexy, desirable and shapely. In spite of the PMS bingeing, black is so forgiving. Just like how a gentleman should be. Most women over time stop listening to the voice of their bodies and the need to be cherished. Just as we are flawed or perfect. Because beauty is a factory idea, created by the advertising lobby. Real women have fat and bad moods.

Like great love stories where there is passion, romance and my favourite word called Ishq.RJP with his signature pintuck kurtas and this cutwork design makes me crave for the moonlight on my shoulder blades and my lover finding spaces to kiss away my loneliness between the neatly cut fabric. Exposing just that much and more.

 

 

 

Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Introduction, Lifestyle, Own Life Story, Tradition

Firdaus Is Omnipresent

February 26, 2019
Firdaus

The sound of the marching boots and the incessant screams of the tribals fighting for their land reverberated into the stillness of the chilly evenings. Evening fell early on those eerie mountains and the morning sun broke through the dark clouds very early. It was the night of 25th December 1982 that I recall clearly. A bunch of Khasi men trying to enter the compound of my home and attempting to light up the meter box. I stood stricken as Ma held on to the boti that she used to cut her fish, instructing me to be brave.
“They are cowards, we have no fear”, said Ma to console me.

My young mind knew she was lying because her frail body was shivering. I understood that to face fear you need to lose fear. The Khasis were opening the meter box and screaming Dokhar, Dokhar! And just like the Gods above were deciding we needed to live longer, the CRPF marched close above our heads and the insurgents ran as fast as lighting into the bamboo forests opposite our home. We just kissed death and stood holding on to each other like a boulder withstanding the raging seas.

Truth be told, the mountain people were a peaceful lot. Till the Bangladeshi refugees starting infiltrating into the crevices of the hill. They were insecure about this new phenomenon and one day they decided to take the law into their hands and finish the evil from its roots. They caught every Bengali on the dark streets and punched them till they bled uncontrollably.

The Centre was cut off from this part of India. They didn’t understand the differences between the various tribes and their culture. The Centre intervened by sending the CRPF force with a shoot at sight order.

My school was suddenly shut and the grey-white building looked like a forlorn ghost waiting to be lit again. I didn’t miss school much as I disliked the discrimination against the Bengali students which the nuns too practised those days. The Khasis hated the Bengalis like plague. And I was their easiest target because Baba didn’t stay and I was just suddenly made aware of this reality. In spite of the matrilineal society structure, I felt aware of being a girl in the Khasi land.

The men made lewd gestures but didn’t ever touch. They said mean things about Ma but they never physically harmed any woman. The men were targeted to be butchered.

Just as the CRPF walked past, I saw Ma call a jawan & in her impeccable Delhi Hindi, she told him, that she lived alone with her little girl. She wanted to give them water to drink every time they were tired of marching. They agreed readily because water in the hills is difficult to get and arduous to carry. I saw her carry a bucket with a glass on the side and keeping it outside our gate. I knew she was smarter than the Khasis and the CRPF forces. She gave them deluge in her demure way and protected her daughter and herself from being burnt alive in that wooden home. I learnt the word jugad that day at a tender age of 10.

The CRPF became first name acquaintances. I knew she was putting her best foot forward to keep them happy. They were gullible to affection. She didn’t voice her truth to me, but I I could see her, much more than others did. Her shared sorrow of loneliness, survival and cunning was all visible to me. As she negotiated life, insurgents, army and her patriarchal surroundings of judgement. She still wore her hair in a neat bun and her crisp cotton sari. I realised she was not the one who would ever give up on life and living.

As I take out my red sari, I remember how in that environment of hate, Ma gave me this red sari and said every time you feel lesser, wear your sari and your courage like an embellishment from the Universe above. Once the sheen of courage reaches your eyes, the wrinkles fade, the grey ceases to matter and what remains is your grace and gratitude of your life experiences.

I call this Firdaus which means paradise.

May each of us finds “Firdaus” in the mundane and the marvellous.