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Accessories

An Arabic Prayer On My Armlet

July 16, 2019
Armband

Armbands go a long way back to history. It is a unisex design, worn by the men around their biceps of the upper arm. Studies show that the literature of the Bronze Age people wore armbands rather than a finger ring. In Asia we wear Armbands to ward off ill luck. A young bride is encouraged to wear an armband. It is a thing of beauty to watch a woman who wears her armlet or armband with as much gusto as her other jewels. The open arm with a band is extremely gorgeous and sexy with a minimalist design clothing.

The designs are galore of different motifs on armbands. My Dida had a beautiful armband that she wore as a bride. With all her pride she used to narrate her story of how the armband finally did not fit her arms over the passage of time. As she grew fatter and more voluptuous with age and her loving, much older, once married and widowed husband, my Dadu loved watching her tie her armlet. Dadu had married her elder sister, who died at childbirth. She left a young daughter behind. The chosen one to get married to Dadu was my young Dida at the tender age of 12 or maybe 13.

I still recall her jewellery box that she kept hidden under her clothes in her cupboard. It was called the “Sindhook”. A large wooden box with ornate brass handles. It had compartments and a mirror on the lid. The mirror had stained over time. But that glass even in the twilight hour was truthful to her. Dida’s older but extremely beautiful face shone with the love of a life lived with pain, love, longing and loneliness. Those lines on her forehead and face had her years of untold tales. I used to tease her saying you must have been like a pudding. How would you be proud of being large?

 

Armband

Armband

 

Her eyes used to widen and she looked at me like I was an absolute imbecile. She said with complete honesty, “Skinny girls are not desirable”!

I often look back at the times her gentle fingers touched my collar bone she would look at them and tell me. That’s terrible my darling!
A necklace should fall on a full neck. Who would even find that attractive?

Today after all those years as I try one diet after the other to try to reduce my weight, so often I have lamented over my full figure. I felt inadequate and unattractive. Her words of kindness, I sit silently and reminisce. She said a woman is beautiful when she is kind, compassionate and loves herself in totality. As the years progress, she needs to nourish her soul and also love her body. Her stomach is the spiritual pit of giving it the best food nature has to offer. Her pride in her stories of being a full-figured woman still brings a tear in the corner of my eyes.

I place my ear against the wind and I try to hear her voice again and again. To my utter horror I only hear those words that injured my soul and self-confidence as a teenager – “FAT”. I raise my hand towards the skies and pray to the Devi to give me the strength to accept myself in all my glory of having become a mother and accepting all the body changes.

I know my armband is supporting that strength I have garnered over the years to raise it and say STOP body shaming us. I know an attractive woman wears her kind attitude on her sleeve. May the armband that clasps our arm, that helps us in holding our young children and also turn the ladle in the kitchen to nourish the family we create, may that forever remain resilient and strong.

Clothing, Lifestyle

Sexy In Sequins

July 11, 2019
Sequins

It was a hot summer noon in Delhi and we decided to meet over coffee. As I walked into the crowded snaky lane of Shahpur Jat, I recalled the little unknown spot in Delhi with a handful of shops. The growth of this place from the 90’s to today is the greatest sign of the changing fabric of the city. To me it was a realisation that the hours doesn’t stop for anyone ever. Time has a strange way of telling us that this is not your resting spot; it keeps moving just as you think you have settled into a constant and life shakes you out of your comfort zone.

As I walked into the familiarity of the old café with kettles hanging and beautiful home décor, I ordered my favourite black coffee and as I waited, I noticed each gentle well mannered staff in the store were from the north east of India. I immediately struck a conversation and I could sense that feeling of camaraderie and the simplicity found in hill folk. I am often happily mistaken for an Assamese or a Nepali. And I love playing along with my broken knowledge of both the languages.

As I settled into the familiarity of the city of my birth and was about to take my first sip of coffee, I looked up to see Sonam Dubal walking into the store. He looked the eclectic designer that he is. A fine cotton black kurta, glasses and a big bag and as he apologised for being few minutes late, he complimented me with an endearing honesty. I could see the frank appreciation in his eyes. I felt at ease and as we ordered for our cake, he spoke in Nepali to the staff and I joined in showing him my language skills. We settled into a known sense of not belonging to our current spaces yet not knowing how to return to the old. He told me he was from Sikkim. I told him I was from Shillong. We both took mouthful of cake bites and coffee. We spoke about our undying love for the East – the often neglected and not showcased craft of India’s extreme corner, often referred to as North East with little knowledge of each state and its art.

We finished our cake and walked up into his store. The store had tasteful designs and embroidery on western jackets and Ikkat shift dresses and a major influence of the Islamic design structure. I loved the Mughal inspired designs. And I gravitated towards a black Angarakha.

Sequins

Sequins

 

I tried on the Anghrakha and it was tad bit loose and Sonam promised to get it fixed to my size. Which was done and delivered to my hotel room that evening.

This Angarakha is a cotton muslin with black sequins border. As you wrap the garment you can tighten the sides with metal buttons resembling a Chinese traditional jacket button, again adding to the Indo-Asian silhouette of this design collection.

Sonam Dubal’s brand – Sanskar – is  the for the uber stylish woman who cradles both the traditional and the contemporary with equal panache. As I walk out in this garment with my black kohl eyes and a nude lipstick, I feel uber sexy in the way it wraps around my body. Just how love is or should be. Just gently wrapped in the warmth of your own skin yet against each other.

Clothing, Lifestyle

Dotty About The Dot Design

July 4, 2019
Polka Dress

It’s the summer noon and the mood is frisky. I look out into the bright sun. The summer wardrobe special is always the whites, pastels and the one polka dot dress. It takes me back to time. I feel light in my being and miss the caress of the warm wind against my shoulder blade. Polka dots are the easiest to wear. It needs no styling. It stands out among the milieu of the hardened stripes, the paisleys or the wild flowers. Polka dots are flirtatious, just the way I like it.

Dots are representative of the many moods of a woman. The traditional bindi is a dot. In Bengali we call it the teep. Here it represents the intuitive chakra of your body. We press against it to hear the intuitive sound clearer and sharper against the din or cacophony. There is also the three dots tattoo which I was born with on my forehead. It symbolizes the common prison tattoo that says “Mi vida loca” or “My crazy life”. It’s commonly done around the eyes or the hands. In my case I grew up with three moles in a trilogy of sorts on my forehead right in between my brows. As I grew older, the dots got darker and deeper. I knew the gods above had decided it would be my crazy life with its myriad shades of grey.

Polka dots were inspired by the Bohemia dance called the polka. It was in fashion as house dresses and garden dresses in the early 1920s. This captured the youth driven fashion look. I find myself still gravitate towards this unconventional arrangement on fabric, where each dot is accurately shaped and placed against each other in an array of a wild dance pattern.

 

Polka dress

Polka dress

Polka dotted dresses are also part of the Bohemian fashion style. Commonly referred to as Boho Chic. The early years of the 21st century saw the reflection of this unconventional style norm. Fashionable girls wore ruffly floral skirts with short tops and boots. And among them was the polka dotted dresses with cowboy hats, or flowers on the head like a tiara. It shouted out loud, the need to be unconventional, free in spirit and sexual freedom. This was not just a print, it was a lifestyle. The non-bourgeois gypsy girl was an expression of being themselves, feeling sexy in their artistic pursuits. It also meant not giving two hoots about fashion diktats.

Bohemian women were the grand synthesis of the feminine Wonder Woman. She didn’t need the metal bra or the corset. She roamed free, smelling the flowers in the forest, as she wore her femininity on her entire demeanour with an unhindered attitude.

And my polka dress is a reiteration of just that. I wish for every woman to not be pressured to fit into the mould of right and wrong, prescribed by a patriarchal mindset. As I wear the dress and feel the soft fabric over my skin, I know I will travel where my heart can hear the song of the butterflies and catch the blush of the morning dawn.

If I find myself on a placid cool lake with flowers growing on each side of its bank, I shall chase the ripples on the water and dip into its coolness with my polka dot dress soaking in the cool wetness of freedom.

Accessories

Evil Eyes That Stare At Me

June 17, 2019
Bracelet

The Evil Eye is synonymous with the city of Istanbul. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded with the evil eye staring at you. The Turkish believe it as the good “djinn” that protects you. I watch with fascination the Bosporous River flowing in the city and a nation that was given birth by their leader Attaturk. The man who freed women of Turkey from not having to wear the head scarf.

The bright coloured cafes, the brilliance of the turquoise, it is almost supernatural. No matter however radical and scientific you are towards your approach to life. The presence of the evil eye is flamboyantly displayed at all things of vanity. You find door knobs that stop the bad djinn from entering your home and spoiling the magnanimous bonhomie of a good home.

The bazaar is a treat for tourists where you find pendants, bracelets, earrings that you imagine are baptised with the dervishes to protect you, from the unknown fear lurking behind you.

The store that caught my fancy was run by a large, bright eyed middle age lady who had lamps, jewellery and the omnipresent evil eye staring back at you.

She had dark kohl rimmed eyes and a mop of matted hair and her hands were coarse and rough from work. As she adjusted the evil eye pendant on my neck. I told her I love Istanbul and the author Elif Shafak and her book ‘40 rules of love’ and Orhan Pamuk. She immediately broke into an indulgent smile and told me her story.

The evil eye was specially very important for me to have because I have a growing son who looks happy and my eyes sparkled with his happiness. She said her sole purpose in life is to make her daughter self sufficient and she secretly harboured anger towards her ex husband who had left her for a younger woman. The evil eye and her coffee kept her from not planning revenge because every time she gazed at her daughter. She saw the light from Rumi’s poetry. So, she keeps the evil eye always with her. To remind her of the good that gets buried under the bad at times of extreme loneliness.

I understood she too was grieving like you and me. Things we take for granted may not last forever. You keep the evil eye to ward off those niggling thoughts of the bad djinn. It always tries to overpower you with its utter strength of making you feel powerful.

I settled for a door hanging and a bracelet that had a bohemian look. The evil eye in between the leather and thread bracelet were a reminder that most things in life has many dimensions to it. Wherein lies the darkness also lies the light and we fragile human beings hold on to that perfect moment, where we go through the phases of abandon and again a deep sense of insecurity. It’s this play of the certain and the uncertain that makes us wonder if we have been able to overcome our petty thoughts.

I couldn’t contain my curiosity to learn what the supernatural was trying to tell me. So, with the bracelet around my wrist I know the bad djinn may just have to tussle hard with the good djinn. The evil eye has to keep the good-hearted sentiments always above my magnified sense of self.

Accessories

Ladybugs Or Ladybirds Aren’t Ladies Afterall

June 11, 2019
Ladybird earrings

Ladybird beetle is no lady after all. She stinks and stings. It has the reputation of being a harlot or a mistress in old English parlance. The ladybug beetle consumes insects. And by mistake if you think, you can eat it, it would emanate the foulest stench of all the insects it has devoured till you vomit your mistake out.

I was most fascinated with the design sensibility of this ear stud that represented this beautiful coloured insect. I choose it because it wasn’t a bird or a lady. This statement ear stud didn’t have the seven spots on its back. Which in mythology is supposed to represent the seven pains of the Virgin Mary. I wouldn’t want any holy association with this predator who knows what she wants.

I am always intrigued with the association of women with animals. Since time eternity with absolutely vulgarity multiple animals and insects are named after us. An older woman loving a younger man is called the cougar, a docile woman is called a cow, a loud woman is referred to as a hyena. By now I am absolutely certain I want this insect on my ear. Which represents its piercing and stinking abilities. Maybe it would inspire me in life.

I am fascinated to witness the amazing hierarchy of the insect kingdom where kindness isn’t really the rule. This red slow moving beauty is a predator. It seeks the stupid in its redness and camouflages its strength with its bountiful colours.

Ladybird earrings

Ladybird earrings

I decided to look demure in my white dress but wear my beetle ear stud. It was my silent protest for all the flak Priyanka Chopra faced for marrying a younger man. It was my war cry for the articulate Sushmita Sen, who after many relationships has now settled with a very young man and also proudly chooses to be a single mother.

I salute all the women of today who are choosing to become mothers, irrespective of marriage or social acceptance. They are going ahead with IVF pregnancies or finding a man who they think is worthy enough to be the father of their child, without the facade of being socially secure need as the wife. They are bold, brave and have a damn care attitude. They are defining the truth of motherhood which in reality is a sole journey into your soul connect with your child.

I tighten the screw of my beetle ear stud and silently remember and reiterate, “You are the passionate red of lust, beauty incarnate and you no girlie girl at all”. I say out loud, just be you.

Clothing

A Contemporary Batik Art On My Traditional Saree

June 7, 2019
MoodyMo

As I draped the grey, charcoal saree over my body, I felt the mixed sensuous fabric of soft linen, cotton and the sheen of silk drape over me like a poem. This poem I have given it a name, calling it Mahua from Label Zohra. The sari was woven in Chhattisgarh, the land of the unhindered Mahua wildflower.

Bordering Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, there lies this untouched little place in India, lost in time and a history that doesn’t reach our textbooks. Only recently the limelight it got was because of the Naxal movement there.

I travelled extensively as a child with my parents. Both argumentative, creative, quintessential Bengalis with an unending thirst of discovering places, cultures and history, which was part of my growing up years. I clearly recall the trip to Chhattisgarh and into the village of Bastar.

The dusty road was narrow and little homes surround this insignificant place in India. But Baba was keen I go and watch the Mahua flowers in bloom. After all, I was named after this flower. I couldn’t fathom why the Adivasis there worshipped this flower and danced on its nectar. Today, I understand the Adivasis perfect harmony in life with nature and the deep love for it. Nostalgia with things associated with memory is a strange kind of a love affair. And after so many years, the memories that were tucked away into some corner of the mind were awakened out of its deep slumber. Suddenly, the mention of names and places evoke memories that were long lost and buried in time.

Ruma Of Label Zohra is another wanderer like me. She lives her dreams with her art in her fabrics. I had never laid eyes on a contemporary Batik sari and I have often lamented that art and craft need to evolve with the passage of time, retaining its intrinsic identity. But at the same time, art and craft also need to be adaptable to the changing moods of fashion; Label Zohra just nailed this.

MoodyMo

Ruma told me that she wanted to do something different with her creations. She did the Batik printing in Sanganer in Rajasthan which is famous for the Sanganeri prints. In all my yearly visits to Rajasthan, I never found a Batik in the craft of the mighty Saraswati river dyes and prints. And Ruma decided to introduce the art of Batik with Label Zohra, to create this eclectic mix of upcycled yarn, which doesn’t shrink and stays looking mint fresh, even if draped from dusk to dawn.

Batik has been part of Indian clothing and culture for the last 2000 years. It’s origin is in Java and was introduced in India by the traders from the South East. Bengal has had a huge influence of the Batik tye and dye which was also introduced as part of the syllabus in the University of Shanti Niketan, Calcutta. It’s resurgence began among the artists there and over the years many different types of fabric were being used to create more of this art.

I am hopeful with artists like Ruma and her Label Zohra, she is bridging the gap between the lost voices of the weavers and their craft. Some arts and crafts truly need a reintroduction in our lives. This collection is a tribute to the earthy, subtle tones of warp and weft in the sarees. It is ironic that when an art form dies we lament its loss. Yet, when it is here we overlook the struggle it requires to upkeep a tradition.

I will wear this saree and dress myself up, like as though I would be meeting my worst enemy and I need to say aloud, that the wilder I grow, the more you miss me, a tamed woman is a boring creature. I find my elegance over the years with Indian arts and crafts and I know money can never buy sophistication and style. Either you own it or you don’t.

This endeavour towards the crafts of India is being taken forward at the curated show called the Shringar Of Sindh at the Le Meridien, on 13th May from 10 AM to 8 PM.

The exclusively curated Lifestyle and Fashion Exhibition – Deepanjali 2019 – will showcase designer wear, diamond jewellery, accessories, footwear, home decor and more. This endeavour is the latest in a series of initiatives taken up by Sindhi Youth Association Ladies Wing over the years, to help the marginalised sections of our society. The funds collected this year will be used to create an endowment for cancer care. The interest accrued from this will be primarily used to help in the early detection and prevention of cancer. The Sindhi Youth Association Ladies Wing endeavours to make a difference to the lives of the recipients, in their own small way.
So buy a product of love towards a cause and help light up the lives of the needy and deserving.

Accessories

The Pensive Peacock And The Lusty Rabbit Saga

June 3, 2019
Peacock Earrings

As my train touched Nizamuddin Railway Station, New Delhi. I knew my trip into nostalgia was beginning. It is always a plethora of emotions that engulfs me when I enter Delhi. I recall me staring at the train station in Bangalore, when Ma came visiting me. The tears used to stream down my face till I could see the train till the last turn, chugging into a distance and I held on to my longing for home with a tearing cry.

Yes, I am melancholic about the passing of the past and also relieved it probably didn’t continue. I grew up learning that relationships change, evolve. Delhi evokes the painful and poignant memories. Lost relationships, broken promises and the inevitable growth with it. School friendships that have ended and some renewed with a more mature understanding of each other’s limitations and evolution.

In my circle of trust, I found Shimonti, the articulate, music loving, self proclaimed Bengali snob. I find my unspoken special Bengali connect with her. We are both Delhi Bengalis and extremely cynical of ostentatious sequin clad aunties with large crude brand totting bags and jewellery that has no history. We often roll our eyes in unison when we meet those types. We are both ardent fans of Indian Classical music and most things that have art as its main story. The others call us pretentious and prude. We are not exactly offended with that.

As always, she is game to walk into the by lanes of Chandni Chowk, stop to eat at the roadside eateries selling kebabs and my jewellery hunting in the small lanes and stores, where window merchandising is an unknown realm. Dariba Kalan has her favourite store – Dev Jewelleries. The father and two sons charm every customer, mostly women who try every jewellery on. They flirt and compliment you and also choose some designs for you. It’s like taking a trip into the nostalgia of small stores where the space between the counter and your tummy is divided by few inches. The old rickety fan buzzes over your head and what Dev Brothers do is make you believe you are the Queen of that hour. The shop has a narrow mirror and you can see your reflection in that distressed glass. They take out one box after another to show you their collection and you are transported into the world of art and craft of India.

Peacock Earrings

Peacock Earrings

 

As we rummaged through the boxes, I had mentioned to Shimo that I wanted a peacock earring with rubies set in zircon and silver. She never shows her amusement at my imagination. She always joins me in this mad trip of my blah and blue of memory and reality. She just takes over as we enter the tiny store. She summons the brothers to show their best. One Dev Brother says to the other, “Show them the Jaipur collection”. We saw earrings after earrings and finally found the peacock that had opened its plume. All around the finely crafted earring was the eye of the peacock with love and divinity.

My fascination with the peacock as a motif dates back to my trip to the summer evening in Rajasthan, when I heard the shrill cry of the flying peacock over my head and finally, it came down on the soft grass, looking up at the sky, as it threatened to rain. The fresh summer rain, that the peacock opened its feathers to and started the slow dance. As it opened every feather, I could see its hundred eyes stare at me. It shook and moved with the grace of a celestial dancer. I stood fixed soaking in the peacock’s narcissism. It slowly moved its head from side to side and stared intently towards oblivion.

In Greek Roman mythology, the peacock is identified with Hera (Juno) who created this magnificent bird from Argus whose hundred eyes symbolizes the vault of heaven and the eyes of the stars. In Hinduism, the peacock is associated with Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity, benevolence and patience. The virtues associated with women and her divinity. In Asian spirituality the peacock is the nurturer and stays immortal to guide humanity into its spiritual evolution.

The peacock motif is symbolic to the arts and crafts world over. Each representing the vast structure of religion and mythology. I wear the peacock earring on days when I feel the need to dive into my diva mode.  It always gets the attention it deserves and I feel elated to share Dev Jewellery store details with other women.

Chandi Chowk, Dariba Kalan lane is the treasure trove of jewellery stores. It has small almost unnoticeable little windows and as you peep closer you find the arrangement like a trip into nostalgia. There are turquoise, rubies, pearls and silver all ensconced into the little space. Delve deeper and you find the piece you are searching for.

I wear my peacock earrings and rummage to search for the lusty rabbit handcuff bracelet. Dev brother says he has it and I believe him. His collection is unparalleled among the other stores of that place. I didn’t realise my tea had gotten cold while I was busy pampering my vanity. He claims he supplies to the larger air-conditioned stores in the posh parts the city. I am glad Shimonti made me find this store in the historic lanes of Chandni Chowk, Delhi where the pricing is not too tight on my purse strings.

Accessories

The Magic In My Soul

May 23, 2019
Mehfil-e-Mukhtasar

The Mehfil invitation read, look no further, you will soon be transported to the lantern lit room in the little Haveli. I was most fascinated with the invitation. It was an evening celebrating the Urdu poets of India and Pakistan. The evening was called Mehfil-e-Mukhtasar.

The Mehfil was organised in the forlorn Haveli, where the hours stood like a blushing bride, against the evening crimson sun. The Queen who lived here, waited forlorn for her lover to return from war.  He was a soldier in the Kings army, he was young, strong and rode with the power of the hooves of a thousand horses, against the sand dunes of lost time. His curls fell over his forehead as the Queen twirled it in her fingers, as they lay entwined in a common oasis of unmet emotions. He found peace in the nook of her shoulder blade and she found her anchor in the hollow of his stomach.

The Haveli used to echo with the sound of his footsteps running up to hold his Queen in his arms. Here he was, the King. They melted into each other till it didn’t matter who was royalty and who was plebeian.  He used to watch the light of her earrings with the fine Minakari Naksha catch the light against her clear skin till he couldn’t resist her no more. Her long hair fell over his face, as he moved strand by strand, inch by inch from the oblivion of everything around them. What mattered was that moment and those hours. The rest was always lying desolate in the periphery.

The Queen was not married by her heart and soul to the King ever. She fell in love with her soldier in those few seconds of that summer sky as their eyes met. She knew this maybe sinful and equally tempting. As she dressed up in fine jewellery, looking out of the Haveli Jharoka. She waited for him to arrive every full moon night. Till the moon waned and she died calling out his name, as she couldn’t wait anymore. Till she found solace in his strong arms.

The Haveli Mehfil today was celebrating a genre of “Ishq” the lost unrequited Urdu love poetry. And I am always drawn to the voice and anguish of pain. Dedicated to all the poets, writers and artists who find love in their lives, just for those few fleeting moments. Till it dies to never return ever again. These artists painted their eternal wait in colours against the sad empty canvas. Till the canvas bled into its corners.

I had to look the part for the Mehfil. I knew I could see the artist’s half lost, half empty, yet still braving the force of lost emotions that nudged it out of its slumber. Reminding each of us, that we are still alive and with the hope of a loving hand entwined in ours. This unending search of love never dies ever. Even the gnarled, bony fingers of the Queen searched for the familiarity of her lover’s fingers entwined in hers. As she waited looking towards the setting sun and the rising moon. Recalling that time stood still when they were together. And time was like a heavy chain around her ankle when he was away from her. She walked with that weight of pain in every bone and fibre of her being.

Kundan Minakari earrings

Kundan Minakari earrings

I pulled out my Gold, Minakari, Kundan earrings and matched it with my white silk sari. I wore the darkest surma against my eyes and looked back at the mirror. The mirror smiled back and said, the Queen might talk to you today. She might recite the poem sung by Iqbal Bano, “mere Humsafar mere Humnawahi na the”

As I walked up the steps in my Sari and my Kundan Minakari earrings. I caught a glimpse of myself against the mirror. I was frozen as I saw the Queen look back at me.

The Queen was the woman I knew from deep within her soul. She longed for a full moon night where the stars were shy and the cold breeze of the late summer night, made her crave for a love that would search and find passion and immortality in every inch of her.

Even if it lasted for a little while. You know, you would’ve lived your life in those stolen moments of lust, love, desire and passion with an acknowledgement that everything is ephemeral. It is in that moment that you find your ultimate truth.

I stared back lovingly at the Queen and to her broken nest of love and shame. I folded my hands towards the reflection of her beauty and grace and in gratitude bowed my head to the moon above telling me, “I didn’t become a full moon without the dark nights. I didn’t look luminous without the craters in it’s fullness. The moon said “I am dependent on the sun, to give me light in my dark hours. I see my lover in the fierce sun and I am the calm to his fire in the iridescent moon energy”

I knew this was decided from above. The Queen was telling me, that as we pass the hours, don’t stop to notice the little things around you. It is called energy of the universe. “And I simply call him Magic.”

May we each find magic in our darkest hours where the recess of our unrequited emotions finds its light. Just like the moon above that finds her warmth and glow in the sun.

 

Accessories

Wood and Word

May 17, 2019
Moody Mo

London is one of my favourite cities in the world. I seem to just blend in with the cosmopolitan vibe of that city. The English weather and the tea sessions with scones are a few of my favourite things. As usual, my last visit a few months back was filled with trepidation of meeting my son who is studying there. I wanted to see how well he is doing there, without me and his first six months away from home. I was hoping he would be teary-eyed to see me and tell me how much he missed home. To my utter horror, he looked fairer, happier and had a hint of a slightly proper British accent. I asked him if he missed India and he said not yet. I tried hard to tell him home is where Mom is. And continued my barrage of questions and asked what was his favourite thing to do in London? He said the women are beautiful and he loved watching the pretty girls.  He saw my face and quickly added he enjoyed to study and be in his room reading and overlooking the roads below and the buildings ahead. The little liar!

I settled after the jet lag and must admit it wasn’t a bad one. He told me after you have rested, will take you to my favourite places. I told him I wanted to especially go to Camden market. The vibe of Camden had an irresistible urge for me to feel like an unnamed person in that confluence of different cultures.

brown black finger ring

brown black finger ring

There were different stores selling kitschy art, jewellery and bags that shouted loud “FAKE CC” and glasses and artists who sell handmade silk flowers on chokers, earrings and finger rings.

I realised I just gravitate towards the non-conforming fashion forward movement. And I was awestruck with this store in Camden that was called Shanti. I knew I would find a hungover British selling Karma bracelets, incense sticks and Ganesha statues.

Her store in Camden had the most beautiful delicate pieces of jewellery made with stones, metal and wood.

I smiled at her and she wasn’t sure if I was Indian or Spanish. She saw me admire the wooden finger ring. And in her typical English customary greeting, she asked me “Love you want that one”? I was taken aback because my first response would be “I love you too”. I composed myself and realised I am in London where it’s good manners to say darling, love and exclaim your appreciation or trepidation with “Good Gracious Me”!

I tried the ring on and she said again “Love if you want it you can take it, but you can’t try it on”. I was embarrassed but with practised composure, I told her “Love I want that packed”. She told me I had a good choice and only I had noticed the various gradation in the seasoned wood colour of the ring. I hadn’t noticed but didn’t want to tell her that. I was pleased with myself in keeping quiet.

She packed my ring and as I was leaving the store, I overheard her telling another customer, “Love you got good choice”. I just learnt that to be a good sales lady you have to pump your customers’ ego and make them feel special.

I sit with my brown-black finger ring and can’t find much gradation in the colours but I surely know that when I meet my friends I exclaim, “Love you look super today”! And I always get a smile back. I just learnt love is a universal emotion and everyone craves to hear it and to be able to respond back too.

Camden is a haunt for all things eclectic and kitschy. The ring is one of my favourites, among my collection of London memorabilia. As I wait for my ale and fish fingers with tartare sauce. My Shanti ring sits pretty on my fingers.

The Untold Stories

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.