Friday, August 14, 2015

Remembering MP Ranjan

Afternoon on Sunday 9th August when I received the terrible news from a friend, there was a sudden void and emptiness. Moments flashed as memories and it was difficult to accept the fact that the always smiling Ranjan is not amongst us anymore. Life is so fragile and unpredictable.
But life goes on…

Photo Credits: Unknown 

My interaction with Ranjan was limited but that little has been significant enough.  

In 2006, when I joined NID as a PG Textile student, we had a 2 week DCC (Design Concepts and Concerns) class with Ranjan. That time I was kind of confused and disoriented about its relevance. Now, 9 years later I realize that how his teachings have developed me as a designer and made magic to me as a human being.

Later in 2009, Ranjan was in the Research & Publication panel at NID to review a craft research that I was working on. The feedback he gave me then, is a feedback that I give myself for every new project I work on. A holistic approach, multidimensional thinking, relativity of various methods, necessity and consequences of decisions, social and ecological impact etc. are some ways in which Ranjan’s teachings helped me evolve as a designer.

Ranjan – a design thinker and believer, a teacher, an encyclopedia within himself - was, is and will always be an inspiration. He will be missed by the entire design fraternity.

Here I think of few lines by Khalil Gibran on teaching:

The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.
If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Know your Paithani, Dear Maushi

Dear Maushi,

This letter has long been pending and I thought today being the first National Handloom Day is an appropriate day to write. Thank you to GOI for marking such a day!

Firstly, I must tell you that you really boast my ego when you send pictures of your recently developed art and craft products or newly bought saree for my review! I feel that my little enthusiasm for textiles has seeped into the family as well. It is a nice feeling!

About a month back you shared some images of a Paithani saree you were gifted. Thank God it was a gift and you did not spend your earnings into that fake Paithani! But I feel depressed about the whole scenario that the person who bought it had no knowledge that she is buying a fake one and moreover the person who sold it is also unknown or has misguided purposely.  I know it is very difficult for a lay man to know the difference between the authentic and fake especially in the market today where there is a duplicate of almost everything. Polyester is sold as silk, print is sold as ikat and a jacquard is sold as paithani!

This is not Paithani!
Photographs sent on whats app by Mihir. 

I remember ajji’s paithani that you have. What a beauty she is! The fine interlacing of silk and pure gold… indeed a rate treasure!

As you know the most promising part in a paithani is its pallu decorated with motifs of peacocks, parrots, lotus’ amongst others and peacock being the most favourite. It will also be nice to know and acknowledge the tedious labour involved in the making of it, the skilled craftsmanship and the tradition which has seen centuries turn by.

Here are some pictures of making of the paithani, though these make no justice until the process is described in detail. But I do not intend to convert this letter into a thesis on Paithani!


 Photographs by Haris Pathirikodan at Aurangabad, Maharashtra

Unlike the rosogulla that is going through a debate on whether the GI rights are to be claimed by West Bengal or Orissa, the Maharashtrian Paithani has received its GI rights long back in 2010. These rights not only confirm the geographical area but also the historical origin, appropriate process of making and uniqueness of the craft.

The weaving of a paithani is such that it can be woven only on a handloom and not on a power loom.  It is difficult to give a brief explanation. So here are some basic specifics by which you can identify an authentic paithani:

1.     The motifs on the pallu have same color on the front and back side
2.     The pallu is a flat and even surface. No variation in thickness.
3.     No threads at the back side of the pallu are cut.

Traditionally, a paithani sari has motifs woven on the border and pallu both.  Keeping in mind affordability, revisions have been made where the motifs appear only on the pallu.

When you buy a traditional handloom saree, you not just buy a piece of cloth; you invest in the age old heritage of India and you sustain the second largest employment sector of our country. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling already?

Hope this letter inspires you enough to share the idea of identifying, buying  and using authentic traditional handwoven textiles.

Ending this letter with a poem by the weaver-poet Kabir

Weaving Your Name

I weave your name on the loom of my mind,
To make my garment when you come to me.
My loom has ten thousand threads
To make my garment when you come to me.
The sun and moon watch while I weave your name;
The sun and moon hear while I count your name.
These are the wages I get by day and night
To deposit in the lotus bank of my heart.

I weave your name on the loom of my mind
To clean and soften ten thousand threads
And to comb the twists and knots of my thoughts.
No more shall I weave a garment of pain.
For you have come to me, drawn by my weaving,
Ceaselessly weaving your name on the loom of my mind.