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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.

Goa, Moody Mo, sea shores

The Wishful Waves On The Stormy Seas

May 10, 2019
Moody Mo

Sea Shells are a reminder that nothing is permanent in the fury of the sea. The sea engulfs everything in its tornado. I sat on the sea shore and watched with delight the absolute nothingness of its surface calm gentle waves. It had a calming effect to soothe my over stressed city nerves. The sound I wake up to is the burring sound of the water pumps around my home where the morning begins with the constant struggle to catch the tedious day ahead. From my window I see another harried face struggling to surge ahead to those unpaid bills and screaming school children.

I share a camaraderie with the women opposite my home. Her kitchen window I can look into and find myself drawn into her everyday struggles. Packing tiffin for her kids and husband. Her over worked hands never a moment when they are resting one on top of the other. And in this jumbled up thoughts of what is to be of her and her life, I see a boatman sailing far away into the horizon. His chiselled dark sinewy body juxtaposed against the bright sun and away and away he bobs into oblivion.

The sea is mysterious with so many creatures inside it. I feel minuscule in my presence around the vastness of its dark blue. I have been ashamed of my thoughts many times; I look over my shoulder to see if anyone can hear my thoughts. I have often contemplated what it would be like to walk into the ocean and just eventually surrender to its darkness and into its abyss.

We all have an abyss that we are frightened to face. That abyss is and was my space where it’s covered with shame like the moss growing on the sea bed.

I met Miranda from Germany and she was tired of expectations from life itself and decided to take this journey on her own into India and the most recognisable state Goa.

Moody Mo

Moody Mo

Goa had a vibe of art, music, the constant sound of the waves crashing against the shores. The abandon that this place gives you is almost contagious. I am so regimented in my routine in the city. Here I don’t even realise when and how I just allowed myself into its abandon of social norms. Here you meet couples but you are just trained by the ocean to not even think if they married or into a relationship. You just accept that it’s alright to just be happy.

I unlearn that I shouldn’t be guilty of feeling happiness bathe over me like the sea salt that mixes into my tears and into my unresolved hurt and pain.

Miranda took me to another friend she had made in India who created the most exquisite jewellery with sea shells. I was astonished with so much that one could do with sea shells. I saw this beautiful shell finger ring that she had created & I politely asked her if I could try it on. Goa has worked on her too. She said you can wear the sea memory on your finger and point toward the horizon. I wore it and it looked every part of the tumultuous sea and the calming waves of the morning.

I met women who bid adieu to their men folk who risk everyday of their lives to catch fish and return in the evenings with the promise of a cooked meal. They collect shells and sell it to the artists who have found another way to create the sea memorabilia with aesthetics that only another creative soul could be enamoured with.

I bought the ring to wear on my finger and hold the conch that came out of that abyss. I realised that the sea is a part of each of us. I sat transfixed watching the waves rush towards the shore like an ardent lover towards the ever-shifting sands of time. It got moist with this constant back and forth of its union of foaming waves and it left little reminders of sea shells.

The sea is as mysterious as a woman who toils in her kitchen, office or the sea shores or the village market. Like the unending abyss you too can’t find her depth, even if you try to.

Accessories, Bengal Culture, Ear RIngs, Fashion Blogger, Moody Mo

Designs of Undivided Bengal

May 7, 2019
Moody Mo

As she walked into the train compartment. She saw the gaps in between the boogies. Mrinalini often wondered what would happen if the connecting iron chains would disentangle and the compartment would lose its chain of continuity. As she stared at the ugly black soot filled track below. She could see her life in those moments when it derailed from its original destination of familiarity.

Mornings in a train still remain her favourite hour to get to the steel wash basin and praying a bridge doesn’t come while she is washing her face. The water would spill all over her neat cotton dress. As she negotiated the timing of the shaking of the compartment and her clever manoeuvre of unnecessary wetness. She was woken from her unheard thoughts.

The same old man who kept watching her in the compartment came and stood close to the window. He smiled at her as she blew out the water. He told her that you must be like the train charting new territories and finding resting spots in between to see the changing sky colour and the changing landscape.

He said he was Amal. When Mrinalini told him her name. He said it was Tagore’s wife’s name. He told her of the huge Tagore household where Mrinalini lived forever pining for the love of her poet husband.

Mrinalini was only 12 years old when she was chosen to be the second wife in the illustrious Tagore household. She was not highly educated for the progressive Bengali aristocratic household yet she was a quick learner. Her intelligence was not noticed ever in the narrow shroud of her beauty.  Tagore’s Mrinalini after 15 years of marriage wrote her first letter to Tagore, her husband.

Now as the years have passed the train journey still remains etched in Mrinalini’s mind. She recalled the connection of Tagore’s women and her equal connection to all the beautiful things in her home, she was also one of those things.

Every time she watches a train from a distance what remains is the conversation between Amal and her. He held the strong iron handle as he alighted from the train and waved to her. She waved back to say goodbye. But the remnants of those piercing eyes into her own telling her the truth gets mixed with the loud banging of the tracks and her reality. It silences her yet the muffled scream remains.

As Mrinalini wore her kaan pasha which was the traditional undivided Bengal design, one of her favourites, the gold earring held the weight of Ma with her turbulent mutinies of finding herself in the cold hills of terror-stricken Shillong. There were no lockers those days. Ma had a traditional engraved wooden jewellery box. She kept most of her jewels in that box hidden below clothes in the cupboard. Mrinalini knew the hidden spot.

Ma looked beautiful with the kaan pasha in the flush of her youth. These traditional ear studs were part of the Shringar of a Bengali woman.

Mrinalini recalled Amal’s eyes. And she thought of her inherent nature of being free, fearless, quick of tongue and always ready to give back as good as she gets.

Mrinalini wore the kaan pasha and her bindi and she knew she could never be the domesticated woman most men seek. She would be crazy to most people, as long as she remained beautiful, eloquent and cerebral.

That is the fate of most of them. How would she be different? The kaan pasha covered most of her ear. But the shrill loud voice of reckoning, the jewellery couldn’t withhold.

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.

Labour's Day, May Day 2019, Moody Mo

The Voice Of The Workforce

May 1, 2019
May Day

Today is World Workers Day. The Labour Force Union Movement was recognised. The 5 day work was given to them after much protests and resistance.
I watch silently everyday the building being built. The jarring iron rods and the mud, mortar and the churn of the cement mixer. I look from my window. My room is cool and the curtains are drawn to keep the harsh sunlight away.

But I flinch as I see the scorching rays on the naked child’s back running helter skelter around the mud and grime. The mother while carrying the bricks on her head gives a sidelong glance to her baby. He too copies her and tries carrying bricks on his little head. I hold on to the railing tight. I feel the lump in my throat and the moist tear on the corner of my eye. He reminded me of my baby.

I walk across to give some bananas and water but I can’t stand long. They seem oblivious to their right to education, right to a shaded spot in the heat, right to a break. I have seen the contractor shout at them & they scurry like animals. Almost ant like in their march to the discipline.
Are we really free as human beings? Do we really have dignity of labour? Do their hands hurt from splinters that cut into their skin, while they build our palaces.

May Day 2019

May Day 2019

Are their children aware? That this is not childhood. This is slavery to a system. A system that needs change.
We don’t greet our security guards when they open the gates many a nights, we don’t bat an eyelid to give left over rotten food to the street cleaners outside.

Is this civilisation I ask myself?

Today is the day the unskilled labour force world over were recognised and were given the 5 day week. The Union was formed for rights.
But there are many workers who still need activists and crusaders to give their voice a language that would be heard above the din of power and inhumanity.

Bengal Culture, Fashion Blogger, Fashion Clothes, Moody Mo

The Defiant Devi

April 29, 2019
Moody Mo

As I walk out into the burning scorching sun of the summer Calcutta home, I leave my trail of the sari palla falling and failing behind me. I failed as a woman you put on a pedestal, I failed for all the conditions and the confidence you had in my acceptance of your rules. Every time you flexed your muscle, I cowered because I knew my strength lied in my mind and not in my body. I knew you didn’t want to see the naked me. The naked truth of not being a Devi but a mere human being fraught with failings and follies.

I was tired and exhausted playing nurse for your incompetence when you fell ill and you couldn’t hold your health and spirit, I was angry for your tenderness towards me when I towed your line. Your approval of my morality when you spoke about the woman next door, who met men at her free will. Like she was some sort of a crazy person who needs counselling. I was dejected every time you pulled the hand brake when I tried to learn to drive because you thought my free reins would thwart your incessant need to be in control.

But you failed in navigating my path ahead because I had silently charted my own path. I am the Devi.

The Devi Blouse

The Devi Blouse

This summer noon was different. I felt the spirit of the noir goddess envelope me in her fierce nature. She was the epitome of all that is dark and divine. She isn’t the Devi who is demure. She is Kali the goddess of wrath. She marches on nude with her hair let down and her breasts are covered with the skull necklace of Asuras. She fought each one of them and as each Asura arose from each drop of blood she finally drank his blood to stop the birth of one more Asura. Devi is noir, merciless with evil, loves her meat and her drink. She isn’t the domesticated Lakhshmi. She is the noir Devi.

And you worship her every morning as the demure Devi but refuse to see her your own Devi in her naked truth after you open your eyes from your daily prayer. I hope you realise you are failing your own devout delusion. The Devi is the reincarnation of the years of turmoil she has endured in your bloody hands.

And there are Devis everywhere, under the fading sunlight and the receding moon. She is tired of you putting her up on a pedestal and stopping her from being the mere human spirit that she is.

The Devi on my blouse is Satyajit Rays’s classic film where Sharmila is worshipped as the reincarnation of the noir goddess because her father-in-law had a dream. That his daughter in law was a reincarnation of the Goddess Kali. To the utter horror of her husband who watched his wife being worshipped as a deity and eventually she starts believing that she is truly the Devi.

My Devi is in you and in me, she is in the trains, buses and roads where she fights against this conditioned mindset of how celestial she ought to be.

Devi is divine, demure and destruction. She is in you and in me. As we pack the tiffin boxes for our families with one eye on the clock and also wear our grey on our parting, she is everywhere and yet nowhere.

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?