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Indian Fashion, Manipur, Moody Mo, North Eastern states of India

Manipur’s Mighty Weaves

May 14, 2019
MoodyMo

As I tie my Manipuri sarong over my waist, I was transported to the calm Loktak Lake where the ripples on the calm water is a camouflage of the constant anger of the common Manipuri. The History of Manipur has seen blood and a barbarous past like so many North Eastern States of India. Cut off from mainstream India, their protests were mostly unheard by the Government Of India. From 1980 to 2004, the impotent Indian Government referred to Manipur as a “disturbed state”-  a term given by the Ministry Of Home Affairs. The Army was given special powers to act. The laws allowed the Army to use public and private space in any manner they deemed fit. I can’t help but recall how my home in Shillong was finally the Army resting spot. With guns in their hands and lust in their eyes, they took over homes, streets and lives of the simple hill people.

Legal immunity was given to the armed forces. The rape of Thangjam Manorama Devi still sends shivers down my spine. A young mother raped by the army. What followed was the nude protest by the Meira Paibis Women Association, which later went on to be known as the Meira Paibis movement. And the hunger strike by Irom Sharmila Devi, that which Indian history won’t ever forget.

Northeast Indian fashion

Northeast Indian fashion

My dearest college friend from Jamia Millia Islamia was another young girl sent to Delhi to study. The terror-ridden state was a hindrance to Binaya Yumlumbum. We called her Dolly and at times to irritate her, we called her Yumbum. And Dolly came to Delhi from little Manipur. We struck a friendship on being critical of others, that we thought were plebeians and foolishly believed that we were different. The bond we formed lasts even today.

We text every morning, write unhindered on that group. I can feel her love from across the blue mountains of Manipur, where death, curfews, atrocities are in continuity. I remember her wearing her traditional Phenak in college and looking every bit the Manipuri princess that she is. I told her my heart weeps for my friend Kishen, another classmate who was shot down by insurgents. I bleed from inside, recalling his eyes glinting into the Delhi sun, discussing his future plans with us.

Phenak

Phenak

As I wear my Phenak, so many are unaware of the traditional attire of the North East. I want to protest, against this proud lack of awareness about this part of our own country.  They are called Chinkys everywhere.

As I write, I hope I can shed some light on the dark stories of the gentle Meiteis of Manipur and their art and craft, lost to the blue mountains.

I returned home to find a courier with Dolly’s address on it. I held that against my heart and gently opened the packet. She had sent me a Phenak from the looms of Imphal. I was tearing up from within. I travelled back to those days of Delhi and how she swore she would never marry and never leave Delhi ever. We were three friends. Kamini Sanan, Dolly and me. Each of us had a dream. None of us could achieve what we had planned that summer noon at the college cafeteria, where credit was the way forward to the extra samosa and extra cup of tea. A break up meant that the world was crushing under its weight and we sat hours discussing the boy in question and also worry about the Romanticism paper we had to pass.

Today, I wear the Phenak with love and a big thank you to friendships that have stood the test of time. I am humbled.

I am a dreamer.  I hope readers would include the wonderful North Eastern weaves and clothing into mainstream Indian fashion. Also, adapting to the Northeast Indian fashion sensibility is an incredible way to learn and understand more about the art and craft of the people from this almost forgotten land. I get ready to meet my drinking buddies in a bar in Bangalore. I enter the space with people dressed in western attire and me in my Phenak. As I walk towards the bar to ask for a double shot of Vodka, I have two young girls walk up to me and ask if I could tell them where I got my sarong from. I tell them from Imphal. They look disappointed and confused wondering where Imphal is. I quietly worked on my kindness reserve and not get angry, because to not know your own country is a shame. But I refuse to give them a lecture about the geography of India and suggested that they could buy this online. Buying one Phenak will continue the dying looms of Manipur.

I again bow my head to the resilience of the Meitei people who smile through their tears, sorrow as they heal from the atrocious political history of Manipur. A bloody past that we hope would be calm like the Loktak Lake that flows gently towards its destination.

I see myself lying on that boat with the Phenak and the dupatta breezing over my face. May those oars of uncertainty take me forward, dear lord, I pray.

Meira Paibi movement, the nude march of the women of Manipur should make each of us angry forever. I cover my ankle with my Phenak hoping no one can see the nudity of my failings and fallings from there to the now.

Indian Fashion, Kota Doria weavers, Kota Saree, Kota Weavers, Moody Mo

The Entwined Twins Of Kota At The Weave Anthologies

May 2, 2019
Moody Mo

The May summer has the brightest sun pouring into every nook and corner of my room. The leaves look parched and the cry of the thirsty bird engulfs my being. As I run amok into the unending insane search of familiarity of childhood memories. The terracotta earthen sweet water and the constant movement of the fan above my head. I am woken with the pitch of sounds, smell and the heat of summer, yet again I am awash in its poignant soft evening rays. The setting sun just falls lightly on my lilac Kota saree from The Registry Of Sarees. I feel all woman in it’s soft drape over my body.

This saree is benign in the summer months. The lilac is softer than the flowers soft bloomed petals and the yet to bloom ones of my garden. I wonder what took me so long to reach The Registry Of Sarees. Here I was in wonderment and divinity of the weavers love story with its muse. Here the Venus is the soft check woven Kota with block prints in gold.

We have the Jugalbandi in Indian Classical music. Jasrangi is the classic form of Jugalbandi. The two singers in this confluence of voice and raga gives prominence to the Ma note of the female voice and Sa of the male voice.  Weave Anthologies did just that in the curated exhibition, bringing together the Mysore prints into the Kota weave of Rajasthan. The perfect Jugalbandi of weave and print.

Kota saree

Kota Weaves

The artisans on behalf of The Registry Of Sarees went into the clusters of the Rajasthan Kota Doria weavers and created their confluence of South Indian prints with the chequered weave of the light Kota saree.

The Kota is called the Masuria. They were originally woven in Mysore. A general in the 17th and 18th century in the Mughal army by the name of Rao Kishore Singh brought the weavers to Shada a small town in Kota. These sarees were called Kota Masuria.

At this eclectic curated event by the Weave Anthropologies, history is being repeated and replayed again. I was staring shamelessly at the collection of Jamdanis, Kanjiveerams, Kota and more. The dyes are natural, earth-conscious and the sheen of the fabric is pristine.

If you love your weaves and the feel of natural dyes over your skin, please head to the curated show at The Registry Of Sarees, Research And Study Centre, Domlur on the 4th Of May, 2019, 11.00 am to 7.00 pm.

I gifted myself the light Lilac Kota. Haven’t fallen in love in long, with the sheer gauze like the softness of this fabric over my body.

It reminds me of the heritage of Indian arts and crafts and crusaders like The Registry Of Sarees. It makes me believe, the lost, sad sound of the clanking of weavers creating magic on yards of pure fabric won’t perish too soon. It shall continue its song of love, hope and beauty.

I believe there are many who will still uphold this tradition forever, of wearing handloom woven fabrics. Because as you buy a Saree you are continuing the dream of a weaver, who many times feels bereft without the constant use of his hands on his weaving wheel. This is their livelihood to create art on fabric. And I am an eternal optimist.

Akshikha Poddar, Fashion Blogger, Indian Fashion, Moody Mo

Rare In Rareism

April 26, 2019
Moody Mo

It was a WhatsApp message from my friend Akshika and a missed call. After long I was excited, smiling and curious. I was returning from London after meeting my son and one such evening as we ate the truffles and the liver pate’, we spoke about his childhood friends. We laughed hard recalling how silly and adorable they were. In our conversations what kept coming up was Manish Uncle and Akshika aunty. Manish uncle who taught him to get rid of his polyester pants that I couldn’t. So a thank you to Manish there. There was no way in hell I would miss talking to Akshika aunty as stored by my son on my phone.

I landed back in Bangalore and called her. Akshika told me that she has finally begun what she has always dreamt of. She loved the art of dressing and wanted to extend her passion towards a more meaningful journey. I was elated and extremely happy for her. We decided to meet and she said she would pick me up to take me to her studio.  She wanted me to wear her designs. I was humbled to say the least and moved to tears with her candid appreciation of me.

Her brand is called Rareism. Which reiterates that “you are rare”. I was stunned and gobsmacked watching her collection in her aesthetic space. There was clothing for one and all. Her designs are trendy for a curvy woman and for a young lissome girl too. The colour palette was international with cuts that were flattering and comfortable.

Akshikha Poddar

Akshika Poddar

I just stared at the racks of design and the beautiful young mother Akshika, with eyes that shone of hope and success, a friendship that spans over a decade of being mothers to growing boys and our own personal emotional growth too. Her designs were eclectic and extremely wearable. There was Akshika in each and every design. Her honesty and love shone through it all.

I choose this Pintuck tunic to wear over my denims and sometimes my skirt. It was a pristine white with a cowl neck, it fits like a dream. I preened in the mirror and she said “you love white, don’t you? Just like me.” We smiled together and in unison said oh yeah!

She told me fashion is for each one of us. She chooses her cuts and designs with her fabulous all women team, because she knows a woman and her moods and her insecurities and her dreams.

As I get ready to go for my meeting, I can feel the softness of the fabric and the pride of watching my friend’s brand on me. I did feel rare in Rareism.

Tucks are as new as the 19th century. Small tucks and especially this multiple parallel tuck called the pintuck is the ornamentation on this pristine white cotton fabric. Minimalist and Stylish.

As I tuck my hair behind my ear and wear my pintuck tunic.  I know that we as women, all dream a common dream. And only the winners and leaders take their dream forward with resilience and many unshed tears.

I knew Rareism is raring to go and I will sit and watch Akshika march on, raring towards her destination and dreams. And watching her journey and her brand evolve is a heartfelt emotion.

If this isn’t happiness, what is?

Accessories, Amruta Dongray, Assam, Indian Fashion, jewellery

Blue Was My Reflection

April 16, 2019
Moody Mo

The forbidden Apple is fraught with the bad reputation of defiance. It was the union of Adam and Eve. It turned the Gods and the world upside down. Biblical stories are galore of the first bite that made the serpent happy.

In traditional Hindu philosophy, a fruit is given as obeisance to the Gods to appease them. I am fascinated with Amruta Dongray’s choice of her brand name Amrud which she calls “The Abundant You”. My mind races with the thought of the gorgeous nymph who bites into a ripe Amrud known as Guava in English. As the juice of the fruit soaks her chin and mouth, she knows the art of seduction isn’t only about the body. It is an amalgamation of all the senses.

I recall the summer months at my aunt’s home in Assam. It was humid and the tree in her garden had much ripe Amrud hanging from the branches. I saw Pishi’s maid who was 21-year-old and unmarried. Hell of a lot beyond her marriageable age in the tribal community of the Bodos, she was seeking a partner.

She went every day into the terrace in peak afternoons when all the elders slept. She used to seductively bite into the ripe Amrud while flirting with Pishi’s neighbour’s cook. He too would go upstairs at 3.00 pm.

As the huge grandfather clock in our home struck 3.00 pm, Baku would furtively walk upstairs in the pretext of picking up dried clothes just to meet him.

I never slept and with one eye watched her routine every day. One day, I told her I would tell everyone at home what she was up to if she didn’t take me along. I was 10 years old and I knew the threat would work. She made me promise to never open my mouth and also offered to pluck the ripest Amruds from the tree for me. We agreed on that arrangement. It became a ritual for both Baku and me to quietly walk up the stairs without a sound, open the terrace door and walk towards the edge. The Amrud tree was hanging heavy with fruits that squirrels had eaten and left some for us.

Baku stretched her arm forward and I envied her mature body as I prayed to Jesus to quickly bestow me with those curves. She smiled at me, cleaned the plucked Amrud from the branches on her cotton sari and gave me the prized fruit. I smiled back at her while eating the ripe fruit.

The neighbours cook stared at her while she plucked the fruit and Baku just exchanged glances while licking and eating her green fruit. I recalled the moral science class of my strict Convent school and told her to be worried about snakes. She scoffed at me like I was the greatest dunce she had ever met.

Next morning, Baku snapped at me for something and I decided to tell Pishi about Baku eating all the guavas. Baku was reprimanded and the terrace door was locked from that day. Baku stopped talking to me.

My holidays came to an end and I walked up to Baku, apologized to her and offered her my pack of chocolates. She smiled and gave me an ocean blue pendant that she had in her little box of accessories. She put it around my neck and said, “ teach me to speak English”.

Years have passed but the reflection of the blue pendant haunted my mind for a very long time. I knew I had wronged Baku.

Years after, as I rummaged into my belongings, I found Amruta’s necklace with the sugar dropsy blue ocean pendant holding on to a silver drum as its companion. It reminded me of Baku. I sat holding that piece in my hand, wondering if Baku is married now.

It was a moonlit night and I held the pendant against the still water. It reflected the blue. The moon above played hide and seek into the dark skies. The blue colour just looked pristine pretty. I begged again for forgiveness and stared long into its reflection.

Baku will forever remain a pang of guilt in my heart and this sugar dropsy pendant will forever be my coveted piece till the waves crash into the high tide of my soul, bleaching my bone marrow and soaking my ankles with the chains of doubt. Does Baku still eat the Amrud at 3.00 pm in another terrace, waiting for a man to complete her?  And if I get another chance, I shall tell Baku that the cook wasn’t man enough to hold her and tell her she is beautiful. I hope Baku isn’t waiting any longer.

Accessories, Indian Fashion, Nagaland Jewellery

The Warriors Of Nagaland And Their Jewellery

April 12, 2019
Moody Mo

As I once again take familiar steps into the known terrain of the North Eastern hills of India, I realise having grown up among the Khasi and Jaintia hill folk. It has taught me to differentiate between the various tribes living in that untouched pristine terrain of flora and fauna. Each of them beautifully different from one another. The traditional clothing and jewellery are unique to each tribe.

The organic home loom weaves, is sure to leave you spellbound with its richness. The colours and motifs each different from the other. The northeastern women are slender with a clear complexion, high cheekbones and straight long hair. Among them, the  Naga women are especially the prettiest. Aware of their warrior genetics, there is an unspoken strength of the battles they have won over the years. The athletic gait and the clear skin with a bit of freckles makes them the sexiest among the other gorgeous North Eastern tribes.

Moody Mo

Moody Mo

As I grew up, I longingly looked at the Naga older women and admired the way they wore their shawl and jewellery. The wrap skirt around the waist with fitted blouses and the chunky bead necklace was like a eulogy of their past lore and the struggle of their today. Wanting to be recognised and not misunderstood is what each Naga strives for. I for one was always quietly, furtively staring at Lalrempui, my Naga classmate. She embodied her free sexuality and strength combined with beauty all around her persona.

Loreto socials were the day where you see the difference between the wealthy and the not wealthy school girls. The sharp divide was so palpable to my young mind. The Khasis, Mizos, Naga girls wore knee-length boots with kilt skirts and floral blouses with sweaters. The Bengali and Assamese girls were more traditional in their dressing. The forever living in fear Bengali girls were mostly unfashionable near the fashionable Naga girls in school.

I was the Bengali girl with oily hair and a skirt that had a folded hem that was unfolded for a few years, till you stop growing up. To my mother’s relief, I didn’t grow too tall. So her opening up the stitch and stitching it again got less tedious as the years passed.  I wanted those boots and the wrap skirt that would flaunt my hips and small teenage waist. But Ma wouldn’t allow. She liked me in polo sweaters with skirts or dresses that were always below my knees.

As I grew up and moved out of the North East, I had forgotten the fashion sensibilities that had shaped me up. But some things have a way of returning. As I visited Assam last year, I found myself in this little store with Mekhala Chadors and the Naga necklace. I was excited about the collection as I  tried each of the colours of beaded necklaces.

I picked up three of them. The brown Naga necklace is one of my favourites. It reminds me of the days when I wanted this but didn’t have the means to buy it. Today, I have gratitude for keeping the memory of the feisty Lalrempui with me. She got caught for running into the boys’ hostel one night and the entire school spoke in whispers about her. I listened to them all, but I saw the proud, gorgeous Lalrempui walk unabashed in her stride like the true Naga queen that she was.

 

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.

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.

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.