Lal Ded: The voice of awakening

Ritu and Surya Singh of Wolf Jaipur use scraps and discards to form a narrative inspired by protofeminist poet Lal Ded, and her universal vakhs (verses) that portray an era where women’s voices rose above patriarchy

Musings and milestone reflections form the pulse point in Wolf Jaipur’s latest labour of love: Song to Self, presented by Baro Market at Method Kalaghoda, Mumbai. The show, by Ritu and Surya Singh of Wolf Jaipur, brings in the verses of Lalleshwari a la Lal Ded, the 14th-century mystic poet from Kashmir. The artist duo shapes scraps and discards to form a narrative inspired by Lal Ded’s universal vakhs (songs) that form a distinct protofeminist perspective on re-awakenings and introspection.

It is a bold assertion of self, full ownership of thoughts, a voice in rebellion against the atrocities experienced at the hands of her mother-in-law’s inhuman treatment — for Lal Ded was married at the young age of 12 into an abusive household and then walked away at 26 years in search of spiritual liberation in a complete rejection of stereotypical roles.  


There are feelings of loss, shame, and joy that colour the couplets of the female mystic who had the guts to defy the traditional norms during a time when a woman’s complete submission to god, and not her husband, was viewed as a character stab. What aspects of Lal Ded’s poetry form the core inspiration for the collection? “The focus on the journey within

Shilpi Madan for Sunday Herald

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A Tea-time tale: Mumbai’s Irani cafes

Leitmotif of the Persian influence, the sweet, milky Irani chai resets the emotional thermostat with its nostalgia and whimsy.

Farzana Irani has a treasured childhood memory of her father sipping Irani chai at the restaurant they owned at Churchgate in Mumbai. “My earliest memory goes back to 1980, of sipping the hot, sweet, creamy brew in the small, special Irani cups with tiny floral designs. Dunking my bun maska in the chai before eating made it special. Or it would be the turn of hot mawa cake or the crunchy rusk and khari biscuit sometimes. My Parsi friends and colleagues would go to relive the experience many times; of sitting in a café with high ceiling, slowly turning fans, round marble tables with wooden legs, chequered table cloth and black chairs,” she says.

From urban, spiffy spaces and boutique villas parading as tea houses, to quick-fix chai powders jockeying in online marts to cool and friendly baristas weaseling in the tea varieties on their menus promising the Irani chai experience; it’s a crowded space out there with tonnes of choices, but nothing to match the classic version. There are vegan notes with oat, almond, soy and cashew milk variations
to pander to your travel-savvy palate. Then there are the baffling infusions in Himalayan brews; tapioca pearls, fermented, or dried leaves, those with blooming hibiscus flowers, yoga tea, detox sips, and even period tea that promises to alleviate those devastating cramps. “But what’s so great about sipping tea in a franchised format? You get it anywhere,” says Irani.

Leitmotif of the Persian influence, the sweet, milky Irani chai resets the emotional thermostat with its nostalgia and whimsy.
Shapur and Farokh of Roshan Cafe in Dongri

Irani cafés of Mumbai, once iconic landmarks in the cityscape, are now on the wane. The legendary Irani chai could soon be lost in sepia. In the 1950s, there were about 350 cafés across Mumbai. Now, there are barely three dozen of them.

Shilpi Madan for Sunday Standard

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The unbearable sense of loss

My mom passed on over a month ago, and for all my wordsmithery, I was staring at a blank page for hours blinking back tears, when it came to writing her obituary. It is an unbearable sense of loss

It is tough losing a parent, at any age. Been there?

It’s a lesson that isn’t taught anywhere. Not in journalism schools where we are trained to write obituaries of achievers well before they die in reality (sounds callous, doesn’t it?), not when you come to know of people in your own age group dropping dead like sticks (the pandemic and its spin-offs made us experience this), not when you lose someone who feels like your parent by proxy (folks of friends). It just isn’t the same as losing your own, a part of your own self.

My mom passed on over a month ago, and for all my wordsmithery, I was staring at a blank page for hours blinking back tears, when it came to writing her obituary. I have been wandering through the bereavement in many ways since. It is an unbearable sense of loss. Trying to make peace with the permanent, mom-sized hole in my heart. Sure, there is never any instruction manual to cope with the loss of the primary influence in your life, but the enormity of the rough, unexpected disseverance refused to sink in initially. Then crept in multiple open expressions post the hazy daze. I have had tears streaking down my face in front of strangers, being unexpectedly reminded of my loss. It is as if I am in autopilot mode at work, wincing silently on the inside even in the throes of assignments, dealing with the immeasurable rip in my fundamental bond, grappling with a sense of unreality round the clock. There isn’t an Undo button on this file, unfortunately.

It feels as if a limb has been yanked off. Being a parent myself, I felt disenfranchised to grieve fluidly, openly. Weighed under the unspoken expectation that I would be able to deal with the sudden blow, naturally. Slowly, I gave in processing my loss, hesitatingly, for my own well-being. There isn’t any right or wrong way to grieve, but dealing with personal grief is tiring and traumatic. A cathartic run, sometimes through the emotionally charged crests and troughs, now and then. The angst was initially latent, bubbling underneath in a hissing pot of emotions, as acceptance slowly took over.

Shilpi Madan for Sunday Standard

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Diwali celebrates versatile fashion

Diwali brings in versatile fashion in ensembles that can be used as separates are people's favourites

With Diwali around the corner, and family gatherings and parties back in large numbers, sizzling versatile fashion is dominating the fashion world. Many are investing into exquisite designs after two years of lockdowns.

Co-ords meet lehengas

If you are done with the flower-streaked sari designs in dusty hues, take your festive dressing a step further. Co-ord sets offer comfort and versatility. Fashion designer Anavila Misra brings in eye popping hues like pink and orange together with classic whites, inspired by the blooms of the riotous bougainvillea, in silk and linen. “It is about celebrating little things in bright, happy colours with hand-drawn motifs and detailed florals,” says Anavila, about her collection ‘Kagaj Baha’, where one can see tiny flowers in silk

silk co-ord sets and garden-themed shirts.

Diwali brings in versatile fashion in ensembles that can be used as separates are people's favourites

This blend provides an easy festive vibe for Diwali — mixing traditional elements with modern silhouettes. The traditional lehengas has undergone a structured, glamorous makeover with asymmetrical cuts, bold sculpted shoulders, and lapels. These are easy to trifurcate into separates later.

Fashion designer Sarah Gonsalves, co-founder and director of Sarah & Sandeep, says, “Contemporary hand-embroidered lehengas bring in the sense of regal minimalism. Lapels and shoulders exude a powerful structure to the silhouette appeal for the avant-garde audience. They help women to portray their individuality with distinctive flair.” Multi-functional, structured cut lehengas can be used as separates — as floor length skirts — with stoles to dress up the ensembles further.

Conceptual asymmetric drapes are dramatic add-ons that enhance the overall look of the lehenga, she adds. “With hand-worked embellishments on them, the drapes bring in the shine and swish. We are inspired by the symmetrical style and have incorporated it throughout each design,” says Sarah.

In jewelled tones like emerald and gold, the flow and cut of the floor-length ensembles come alive through mermaid-inspired cuts, tapering from hip to knee. “The flow and cut of the floor-length ensembles, with a fully worked trail, leaf-style construction, and signature beaded swirls with eccentric details bring in a power punch,” Sarah talks of the lehengas fashioned in silks, organzas and even Italian wool.

“Women are choosing regal colours that offer a sense of elevation. Using cut dana, we have created geometric and abstract patterns and waves in lavish styles,” she adds.

These lehengas come priced between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 7 lakh, with lapels on the blouses enabling the designs to be paired with skirts, saris, and even denims.

The colours are a vivid pop, explaining the sparkling sequins that makes festive wear perfect for day-to-night dressing.

Cuts for the man

Diwali brings in versatile fashion in ensembles that can be used as separates are people's favourites

A surge of colours and cuts can be seen — even in silhouttes for men. Designer Kunal Anil Tanna is celebrating the season through a soothing rush of greys, textured aqua greens and blues, off-whites, peaches and lilacs. ‘Bring the bling on seems’ to be the mantra with zari trimmings, patch details in gold and bundi jackets teamed with long kurta and pyjama sets with an edgy spin. “Pleats, gota textures and thread pin tucks are perfect for the celebratory mood,” says Kunal.

He has brought in graphic metallic gold foil work on kurtas, and zari and gota accents for bling. Drape detailing with layers added skillfully as structured inclusions in kurtas brings in a fancy edge to creations, while a bundi jacket revs up the look by several notches. “The idea is to make multi-purpose outfits, so that they don’t end up as a one-time wear. Team the kurta with Aligarh pants to wear to a puja, or to a mehendi function. Couple the same self-colour pants in jewelled tones like sapphire blue, ruby red, emerald green for the classic, comfortable evening wear styles,” he says.

Shilpi Madan for Deccan Herald

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No Grey Area Elevating contemporary streetwear from everyday to extra special

Contemporary streetwear arrives in a modern declaration in designer Arnav Malhotra's No Grey Area

One normally associates traditional techniques such as kantha and zardozi with couture, but Chennai-based  menswear designer Arnav Malhotra is all set to prove it wrong. For, in his label, No Grey Area (NGA), he gives contemporary streetwear a luxurious spin through ethnic weaves and embroidery, giving it that extra edge and elevating it from everyday to extra special.

“I have grown up around fashion,” he says (his parents run the iconic multi-designer fashion store, Evoluzione, in Chennai, Delhi and Bengaluru). “It always bothered me that as a country with such rich heritage and workmanship, we only see our crafts come alive in Indianwear or elaborate couture. There was nothing in everyday wear that spoke of our fine art. That’s how the primary pillar of No Grey Area was born, in the underlying knit—east meets west. We create everyday alternatives to couture to celebrate our traditional and unique craftsmanship in modern silhouettes that carry a global, contemporary appeal,” says Malhotra, 25.

Contemporary streetwear arrives in a modern declaration in designer Arnav Malhotra's No Grey Area

Sharp, energetic designs and inclusive cuts are the hallmark of this youthful brand that targets buyers in the 18-45 age group. A pandemic baby born in September 2020, the brand has already become a conversation starter because of its individualistic ethos.

Its first collection ‘Phantasm’ focused on dhoti pants, bandhgalas and silk bandi bomber jackets. “Indian menswear is under-represented. Internationally, people would immediately know what a sari is, but not know of a bandhgala or a bandi. With NGA, we are looking to add utility to clothing and modernising silhouettes in a way that makes Indian clothing accessible,” he says.

Sustainability is the brand’s conscious catchword too, so woven fabrics in cotton poplin and recycled nylon make their way into Indo-western silhouettes in T-shirts, sweatshirts, polo necks, bombers, trench coats, gilets, shackets (a hybrid between a Nehru jacket and a shirt jacket), dress shirts, shorts and dhoti pants. His resort shirts, in fact, are crafted from bemberg fabric (a sustainable textile created from cotton seed linters).

Shilpi Madan for The Sunday Standard

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