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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.

Accessories, Fashion Clothes, Indian Fashion, Lifestyle, Own Life Story, Tradition

A Classic Called The Angarakha

March 18, 2019
Moody Mo

When you feel vulnerable and think that you may lose your soul to this crazy thing called life. You protect yourself by listening to music that heals, or you indulge yourself till the thoughts are dimmed and what stays is the feeling that the universe is protecting you with compassion. As I listened to music, I tightened my Angarakha strings over my breasts, protecting my heart from more pain. The pain which I wish to forget and not go down that road again.  I have always been fascinated with the clothing from the Mughal era. It has the Ishq of a bygone era of opulence and craft. One such clothing is the Angaraksha also called the Angarakha, the other name is Jama.

The word is derived from the Sanskrit word “Angarakhsaka” which means protection of the body. It has over the years seen many variations on the ramp. The long and short of this shirt dates back to the 16th century Emperor Akbar. The first King who had the vision of uniting India on religion and culture. His clothes were a reflection of both the rich cultures, in the fusion of Indian dressing.

I recall falling in love with this garment since my school days. Watching Merchant Ivory’s Heat And Dust, and the white cotton unisex Angarakhas. It falls over your body, hugging the contours. You may loosen or tighten it based on the mood of the moment.

I recall the time I wore my first Chikankari Angarakha for my first date. I remember how he stared at my first flush of youth. Covered from prying eyes, yet revealed exactly what promise lay inside. A girl child blooming into a woman. He too was young, unsure of his ability to love and be confident of self.

An Angarakha to me is one of the sexiest garment created since time immemorial. It covers yet it reveals, exactly how style should be. It is an amalgamation of our experiences, of finding our own divinity among all the beautiful and ugly experiences we have gathered over the years. We are gatherers of stories, of our own lives and others experiences who visit this space in our lifetime.

Sonam Dubal captures my imagination of the fluidity of this garment in its totality.  I am drawn to his aesthetic as a designer. Drawing my experiences from the past to the present me. The little mirror work on the edges catches the light of the sun and reflects in my heart and soul.

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.

Accessories, Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Tradition, Travel

The Opulence of Sangeeta Boochra’s Creations

February 13, 2019

Invaders since history have plundered and destroyed in a macho need to establish their identity. And while establishing identity of their separate culture they also have left footprints of their rich art and traditions. We witness the magic of resilience of the plundered citizens as they wipe away the fear, the devastation and yet retain the beauty of the raped remnants.

Mughal Era in our country saw the exodus of the art forms in clothing, architecture and art. Their opulent craftsmanship was introduced into the jewellery of the invaded Rajput Kings and Queens. Here you see the passing of guard where the creators were the subjugated common artisans. So many years have passed but the indelible mark of this vintage art is still coveted among the connoisseurs of jewellery wearers and makers from the region of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

Who could forget the simmering passion between Akbar and his Rajput Queen Jodha! She embodied the Mughal jewellery all over her persona making her beautifully broken yet resurrected with his love and her eventual surrender to Akbar.

Sangeeta Boochra’s brand is also an ode to the art of the Mughal Era. The multiple silver chain necklace settles on my heart chakra and I am reminded of this confluence of love with labour of the international Amazonite gem stones found in the rain-forest of Brazil, decorated with silver intricate motif flowers. The clasp is an influence from the tribal jewellery style of Rajasthan. As I wear this necklace I realise, we all grow up together, homogeneously with the gift from the rain-forests natural abundance of gemstones and the flower motif which represents the Hindu obeisance to the Goddess in you and me. The seamless sewing of different cultures into one common tapestry of art and craft leaves one amazed. The jewellery is her personal story of this diversity and of our common shared world culture.

Women adorning jewellery rich in art and craftsmanship will always be the point of attention among other women who gather and gossip in social get together. And the wearers eyes will betray the self love of indulgence as she wears this piece of conversation-starter jewellery, created by the artisans from the rich Shekhawati region of Rajasthan.

What kept me intrigued was the story of this young bride who entered the Boochra household. They were jewellery makers since many years. It took her enterprising father-in-law to notice her curious eyes and he knew he had found his art inheritance. He encouraged his young “Bahu” to step out of the kitchen confines and enter the world of male-dominated industry of jewellery designing. Sangeeta found her artistic anchor in her new found passion of jewellery making. Today, the brand boasts of celebrities and Heads of States who have adorned her creations. As you hear her story, you believe that a father-in-law can also be a mentor and it takes a real father figure to do that. Sangeeta remains eternally grateful for this inheritance of art and business.

Just as they would say in the Shekhawati dialect, “Ma Thane Ghano samman Desyu” which translates to“I give you great respect” for restoring the magnificence of the royalty and making it available for all of us.

Re-emergence is refreshingly soulful in this Mughal inspired necklace. I could have more and more of Sangeeta Boochra in my collections.

 

#Mughalart #Jewellery #designer #SangeetaBoochra #Indianjewellery #silverneckpiece #tradition #Rajasthan #shekhawati #royaljewellery

Accessories, Indian culture, Indian Fashion

Ruh By Dhwani Bansal

February 1, 2019

I rushed through the morning traffic to meet an artist, jewellery designer Dhwani Bansal. And I can tell you while navigating through Bangalore traffic, you need oodles of black coffee and calming music. Reaching the destination would remind you of a wrestling match between buses, autos and the ever hurrying human race. Finally, I reached looking a mess, to find a young girl called Dhwani, which means melody. She had the promise of passion in her eyes. A gentle demeanour and confidence of a girl who just got her style right. Her sensibility was evident in her designs. It was the nostalgia of her Rajasthani roots and her exposure to arts in London at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art.

Design that had an influence on her. I asked her about this specific necklace that she had designed with artisans from Jaipur. She called it Ruh. She didn’t realise she had got me there, that was my instant connect. Finding answers from that immortal purity of soul is Ruh in Islam and Sufism, she began telling me, with candour, about this collection that she called Ruh.

Ruh is an ode to the architectural integrity of the Islamic- Rajput structures seen across the arid deserts of Rajasthan. In those monuments and forts, you find a dialogue of the Ruh. It speaks of beauty, resilience, valour and the grandeur of this handcrafted piece. The necklace was designed in brass and completed in 18K gold. The opulence and the minimalism with intricate detailing was Dhwani’s ode to Ruh.

Every time I wear my Ruh necklace, I team it with my black dress for the evenings or a white for the morning. I know the filigree work in the dome-shaped jewellery is catching the light against my skin. I know the light is as transient as the start of a day and the end of a night.

This jewellery reminds me of a story of the Hindu Rajput queen who loved a Muslim soldier and stood behind the Jali window of the fort. She lived her life hidden behind the fort walls or her dupatta. She watched her desire through those gaps and knew that her Ruh would always belong to him. You have no control with that inner voice which guides you into your realm of consciousness. As you wear this necklace you are reminded of the words called Ruh Ki Ibadat, loosely translated as the surrender of the soul to its higher calling. Design and Art is a surrender to that creative space that we also call Ruh. Dhwani Bansal just nailed it right!

#DhwaniBansal #jewellerdesigner #handcrafted #modernjewellery #arts #Rajasthani #Ruhcollection  #necklace #filigree

Accessories, Indian Fashion, Tradition

The Lull On The Tranquil Dal Lake

January 28, 2019

Once you travel to J&K in India, you know there cannot be a more humbling experience than standing against those mighty pine trees. You look up to the mountains and realise you are a mere speck in the grand scheme of things of the Universe. I am dumbfounded as I realise all the hurt and the prejudices I have nurtured is actually stupid and inconsequential. Mountains teach us resilience, and as most poets and writers have quoted “if there is paradise on earth, it is here”.

Kashmiri cuisine, the shawls and the pheran are popular among the winter wardrobe fashion diktat of North India. The beauty of the Kashmiri women is known and celebrated all over. They are divided into the Pandits and the Muslims. You recognise a married Pandit woman with the Dejhoor in her ears. It’s is a beautiful gold earring that hangs delicately on her neck with a gold chain. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of jewellery that is worn by the Kashmiri Pandit women.

I navigated my way through the valley of Kashmir and was spellbound with the untouched beauty of the state. Naturally well-built men and women smile at you. Their porcelain complexion with blushed cheeks is a clear indication of the unpolluted air and water of the Dal Lake. This was the time when the Pandits and the Muslims lived peacefully in the valley. The evenings saw an exchange of Kahwa between neighbours, singing songs of the poetry of Kashmir and the flowers of the valley. But whoever says anything is permanent. The valley renewing its shaky history of wanting to be free from India. The once peace-loving Kashmiri was scared of her own neighbour. The tea shared with Muslim neighbours started to change to hatred. Slowly, the Pandits started leaving the valley. They left their homes, their pride and belongings. Looking back seemed daunting. And the once peaceful valley resonated with gunshots and Pakistani flags being hoisted from buildings. The curfew, gunshots, dead bodies of young men were the norm. Media was abuzz with crying mothers, wives and children over the death of their loved ones. Those rosy cheeks were covered in tears. Delhi saw an exodus, once again, with the Kashmiri Pandits fleeing their home state into the makeshift refugee camps.

I accompanied my Kashmiri friend into the refugee camps with blankets. The exodus of people having lost their humanity and living as rats huddled together in those camps. I tried hard to swallow my tears, but it wouldn’t stop. I still recall a pregnant woman with the Dejhoor in her ears wanting to tear it off.  She wished she never returned to the valley to get married to the man her parents had chosen for her. She was living in London and returned to this future. I had no words for her pain of having lost her freedom, her space and her ability to be free.

It has been years since I left Delhi and only a few years back found large homes in Pamposh Enclave where the Pandits were giving plots to restart all over again. I saw those homes and knew there was a pain in each of those bricks that had been used to build a life all over again.

I searched for the Dejhoor in silver and something that did not require me to pierce my cartilage to put it on. And voila at an exhibition I found the silver clip-on Dejhoor. I wasted no time in picking it up, then spoke to the designers who had created it. They reaffirmed it was a Kashmiri influence.

My silver Dejhoor signifies the collision of the mind and the heart. I can’t reach out to the lost young pregnant woman who wanted to tear her Dejhoor in those moments of despair. But, I know that all of us women are bound with beautiful adornments and sometimes we are prisoners of it. Yet we all seek freedom.

 

#Kashmir #traveldiaries #KashmiriPandits #Dejhoor  #traditionaljewellery #refugee #nature #DalLake #tranquil #beauty

Accessories, Indian culture, Indian Fashion

Allure For Aluminium

January 23, 2019

Remains and ruins are beautiful. We travel across the globe to bask in the beauty of the remains of a culture, that has been buried in the debris of time. We may not give enough artistic credit to spaces which has the remains of a modern structure made of aluminium, cement, sand and stones. Yet artists all over have found inspiration in a messy mesh of wires, that speak a story that only the creative mind can hear.

I have found art in the unfinished structures, where wires are gnawing out of the brick and mortar. Sometimes a half done project tells you a story that the reader wants to create its own ending. It’s like a Kafkaesque moment! Boxes cannot box you, in fact, it urges you to break free from the lines carved around it.

I am drawn to the Brazilian artist Monica Krexa’s aluminium minimalist necklace. As I held it against my skin, I was wondering what would she be thinking while designing this piece. It’s alluring, yet restrained. I may not be able to travel the world to collect memorabilia but to quench that need, to find a style which matches your sensibilities is the ever hungry creative space like Scarlet Sage. They curate uncommon jewellery from across the globe. Sanjana of Scarlet Sage is not from Bangalore, but you find her pieces in Verandah, one of the most eclectic stores in the Garden City.

This necklace is a contemporary piece of jewellery. Monica Krexa uses aluminium by pure chance. The first bracelet was made by wires that she found in a building. The malleability of aluminium and its sheen adds to the minimalist artistic creation. It is a sustainable endeavour because being ecologically correct, aluminium can be recycled easily. The very use of this material is a philosophy of life, where the aesthetic appeal of the product is retained along with the lightness and durability. This does not darken with sweat or reacts to your skin, making it functional yet artsy. This necklace was her first piece as a new and upcoming designer.

As I wear my necklace, it settles on my bare cleavage. I know that this geometric design is going to be appealing only to a wearer who can differentiate between art and a mere accessory. Today, I wear this with elan. I know I carry the sensibility of an artist, who found art in the forgotten spaces of structures. I know that design and creativity are not born every day, to find magic in the mundane is an ephemeral moment. Suddenly, you are awestruck with beauty that arose from the debris around you. You find magic in that wire which can be shaped anyhow you wish it to be. Gold can be gaudy, silver can be a statement but sometimes aluminium is the answer.

#aluminiumallure #fashionjewellery #MonicaKrexa #shopScarletSage #TheVerandah #globalfashion #artwork #artists #necklace #contemporary jewellery

Fashion Clothes, Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Lifestyle, Tradition

Sit Up With The Fluidity Of The Soumodeep Dutta Label…Bengal Muslin Magic

January 11, 2019
Muslin Cloth

The great stories of the Indian Railways and the people you meet along that journey who became a distant memory and some crazy stories that remain indelibly marked in your head forever. One such story is of a Good Samaritan we met on one such journey. He was from Konnagar West Bengal. The years have rolled but I won’t forget that name ever. I turn it around in my mouth, head and it lingers like an unresolved story. Over the years forgotten, after so many incidents where I experienced the magic of human connections. And I hear Ma tell me this story of gratitude and blessings.

It was  1974 when I was just 4 years old and not yet fully cynical and jaded like now. Konnagar again resurfaced with Soumodeep Dutta –  a shy, gentle designer without a shred of the arrogance of his art, with his beautiful Bengal Muslin and Bengal silk creations. He stood almost unnoticeable among the cacophony of the arrogant aware. Konnagar is a story that needs closure and I am always drawn towards the reticent. I knew with his eyes that he was a Bengali.  He smiled at me and said yes, a Bengali from Konnagar. It was a flash of images, I couldn’t tell him my story.

I was on a train with my late Dadu and Ma. Dadu always wore the woollen Dhariwal brand fabric Nehru jacket over his white crisp Bengali Dhuti. All his money and tickets tucked in the pocket of the jacket near his chest. As the ticket collector came to check the ticket, Dadu realised that he had been pickpocketed. Not a penny on him, he started sweating profusely. Ma clutched my little hand and started sobbing. The train was furiously running on track with my Grandfather and Ma losing all semblance. I learnt over the years, middle-class Indians and especially Bengalis have lived all their life with that adage “bhodrolok”- meaning “the gentlefolk”. And now,  pride and honesty was in question, in that train amongst people unknown.

There in the corner, sat a  young Bengali boy, who had an argument with Ma earlier as we boarded the train, for wanting to pull down the window glass. She promptly forbade me from talking to him. He noticed Dadu almost breaking down, walked up to us and asked “Are you Bengalis? Dadu couldn’t reply but shook his head in affirmative. He went on to say, “I am also one from Konnagar and don’t worry I have some money. You can pay the ticket checker and when you reach your destination, you can send it back”. Ma agreed because there was no other choice. He took out all the money he had, paid our fare and even gave us some extra cash. At every train junction, without asking, he would get us tea and food. And as we reached Howrah, he told Ma, “Don’t worry, reach safely with your little one and your father”. I saw my Dadu and Ma thank him profusely and exchange the address. He was Probir Chakroborty from Konnagar, West Bengal.

Muslin Kurta

Muslin Kurta

Over the years, Probir became more like a family member than the train saviour and we too visited his home in Konnagar. I recall the moss-covered small ponds and the quintessential Bengal where the evenings were filled with the conch sound echoing from every home and Dhunuchi infused pujo rooms. And the mosquito nets tied up on the four-poster beds. Over the years we lost touch, but Konnagar stays. I couldn’t share this story with Soumodeep when I met him. But as I touched the Bengal Muslin kurtas, dresses and held it against my cheek, the fabric felt as magical as the Bengal winter mist and it breathes like the wind. Muslin is kindness towards your body like a Sufi chant draped around. It is there on you yet blowing away with the first gust of wind.

Production of the magical Muslin cloth in Bengal started in Dhaka. Leading to Muslin being called “Daka”. Bengal in its heydays  produced more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks imported by the Dutch from Asia. Bengal Muslin was one of the most traded commodity throughout China, the Muslim world and the Middle East to SouthEast Asia. By 1850, Portuguese traders settled in Dhaka and Sripur from where they started exporting Muslin. Unfortunately, the British colonisation implemented protectionist policies and high tariffs that restricted Bengali import. British economic policies forced de-industrialization. The Great Bengal  Famine Of 1970 killed one-third of the Bengal population. Natural calamities from 1787 to 1788 added to the disaster of the cotton industry. People stopped weaving because agriculture was given more wages. Amongst it all, the Muslin industry declined in Bengal.

But there is hope all over again. Like the old dried leaves turn into dust, fresh new hope blossoms in the mind’s and heart’s of the young designers. An artists like Soumodeep Dutta is one among the many trying to revive the handloom Muslin fabrics from Phulia. The finesse of the fabric could pass through a hollow bamboo stem.

As I wear the backless muslin pink kurta with Soumodeep Dutta’s label, I walk away from the distorted version of so many voices inside my head that shames my bare skin. As the Muslin breathes, I can feel it brushing against my skin, breathing, breaking norms of lightness and depth of what lay ahead for me. The pink hue is soft and mixed with white, like a fresh blossom.

Muslin is picking up and we need more designers to revolutionise the lost glory of Bengal and take pride in our heritage.

Soumodeep take a bow, I know Konnagar has inspired you like it saved my Ma’s humiliation years back.

I hope you find inspiration forever in those ponds and fish markets with the fresh catch, capturing the first rays of sunlight. We want more of your talent, for an industry fraught with the fear of decline at an alarming pace.

 

Indian culture, Indian Fashion, Lifestyle, Tradition

My Jasmine Jewellery

January 9, 2019

I have a phobia of dressing up for weddings because as much fun it is to look every part the celebratory you and all the congratulations that you need to say to the bride and groom and the proud parents, I know I can’t muster myself with enough enthusiasm to look and sound excited. I often find myself advising the young starry-eyed couple that a marriage two people together with an understanding that you would not see each other in your beautiful form forever. There would be intense hatred, anger, intense love & compassion. It’s a gamut of emotions.

And to add to my chaotic mind and indecisiveness of what jewellery to pair with my silk sari. I am at a loss. I sat at my garden table with my cup of coffee and staring at the jasmine flower buds growing unhindered in my garden. The fragrance of the fresh jasmine fills up the empty space around me. I thought that do I need to do what’s been done to death. Dressing up in gold and all shiny like the Christmas tree. I was trying to calm my overthinking brain. I knew it wouldn’t be approved by the in-laws that I don’t wear the diamonds and have no interest in owning them too. Because I find elegance in the minimal. I often stare at the many ladies dressed head to heel in all forms of shine yet they look lost and with underfed minds. A mind that probably needs more shine than the diamonds donned.

The conditioning is so strong that weddings mean all your jewellery is all out there. Even if it’s a mismatch I need to prove I have more. And that is the norm of the big fat Indian wedding woes. But to me less is more. I spoke to Zarina my househelp of years now. She often chooses my jewellery and I find her keen eye in tune with my need to wear less and feel more. I asked Zarina would you be able to make me a Gajra with jasmine flowers.? I want to wear a flower garland around my hair bun.

She is quick to pluck the fresh flowers and starts to frantically look for the needle and strong thread to make that gajra. I see her meticulously string the flowers one by one, putting one on top of the other like it was in a symphony of sorts. In a mathematical fashion, she adds the flowers. There were buds that had not opened that she picked. I saw her filling up a bell metal bowl with water and filling the bowl with the unopened bud. My room had been transformed with a certain vibe. The unopened buds reminded me of a young beautiful girl.

As I took out my plain Tusar silk sari. My white conch bangles that matched my white fresh jasmine flowers on my gajra. I cleaned my face, applied my moisturizer, Kajal and my lipstick and tied my hair in a neat bun. Swept the hair off my face. Tied my hair and started circling my bun with the flowers.

My flowers were pinned by braid pins in place and I could feel the fragrance surround me and my inner being of being the woman who knew that dressing up doesn’t always require riches & gold. You can look beautiful with all the jewellery that nature has bestowed us with.

My jasmine flowers did get its due attention and I remember the lady at the corner of the street who sits under an umbrella with a big basket of flowers and she sprinkles them with water to maintain the freshness. I see the working women and so many people buy flowers to either take it as a gift to the deity they worship or wear around their braids or bun. Women in South India wear jasmine on all occasions. It is an inexpensive accessory from nature for so many women.

My jasmine jewellery is my answer to the moments when I didn’t fit in with the set rules of society. The jasmine flower blooms all day, all year. It may wilt and wither but the fragrance never dies. My jasmine is my unsung heroine. She is not seen but felt by many. When we throw away the dried yellow withered petals. It reminds me of life that I look forward to like the fresh new bloom. Promising me of a new tomorrow with stories unfolding and teaching.

The Jasmine is on the branches, hiding behind the leaves. It is shy, pristine and full of fragrance. Like life itself.