This little piggy went to the market….

Fabric stacks

Can anyone ever do gluttony over fabrics? Guilty as charged! When you are surrounded by bundles of gorgeousness in silks, brocades, jamevars, linens and cottons, a fabric glutton like me attains instant nirvana. So every time I visit Mumbai, I absolutely HAVE to visit Mangaldas market, else the whole trip to India does not seem fulfilled.

Tucked away in a by-lane of the busy Crawford market in South Mumbai, Mangaldas market is THE place to visit if you are looking for a mind boggling variety in plain, patterned, embroidered, printed or you-name-it-they-have-it fabric. When you have elbowed through the sea of people outside the market (did I mention the open air stalls of goods that line the narrow lane on both sides) and enter the non-descript entrance; you will probably feel like the mouse from ‘Who Moved My Cheese’.

Maze of lanes

Well, the journey has just begun as once inside, the market is a maze, with little lanes snaking and winding and fabrics stacked from the floor to the ceiling. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that there is a fantastic grid system in place, with each little lane numbered to create a mesh so I never got lost, thankfully.  But having become a regular now, I strongly recommend Rinkoo fabrics in 7th lane for cottons (absolutely any colour or print) and Akanksha fabrics for silks, brocades and more luxurious varieties in 6th lane.

I love having a good chat with Rinkoo Chacha (uncle) over a cup of very sweet tea, with him pouring out his triumphs and troubles of the cloth trade. The neighbouring shop owners add their two bits and joke how Chacha should be playing with his grand kids rather than hauling fabric bundles all day. Chacha pretends to grumble about his ‘lazy’ neighbours, but I know he secretly enjoys the camaraderie between the competitors.

Outside the market

Loaded with fabrics I need (and many more that I don’t), when I look back at this unpretentious Golliath as I lose sight of it once again in the sea of people, I smile wistfully and hope it survives to see a few more generations.

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Preserved through time!

When my genteel, hard-working grand-parents finally moved into their own home towards the end of their working life, my mother gifted them a gorgeous hand-painted panel of Lord Krishna and Radha. I vividly remember the effort and patience it took her to paint the details on a panel of raw-silk. I have been eyeing those patterns since then (over two decades, actually) and planned to paint them myself some day. Finally, I got around to painting them a brilliant turquoise and contemporized them using chunky box frames not really knowing the origin of these patterns.

So when I chanced upon this image in a book, I was pleasantly shocked (Handmade in India: Crafts of India, Aditi Ranjan and M.P Ranjan).

Sanjhi paper stencil from Mathura, India

These patterns are originally Sanjhi paper stencils of Mathura, depicting the life of one of India’s favorite mythological Gods, Lord Krishna. These stencils are still used to create rangolis, powder transfers, on the ground and on water in the temples. These scenes are cut freehand using either scissors or a blade and are often held together by just thin strands of paper. To know that I have unknowingly preserved a traditional craft is a divine pleasure indeed.

Lights, Camera, Action!

During the debut year of our company, we have been fortunate to get advice and help from many of our close friends. Manasi Kashyap is one such friend who is not only an astute business woman herself but also a very gifted photographer. Our friendship was sealed over two decades ago by a momentous incident where I broke a school window and Manasi came to my rescue. Since then we have shared many lunch boxes, rides on smoke spewing scooters, our teenage sorrows and grown-up aspirations.

If I try tracing back the beginnings of my interest in art and home décor, I will surely land up at one of the tastefully done homes by Manasi’s mum, Rizwana Kashyap. With both our families hopping from one city to another on account of our dads, our mum’s tried very hard to make the dreary old government houses look like welcoming family homes. Rizwana aunty, a very talented artist herself, always succeeded in injecting the Indian charm into her home with billowing curtains reminiscent of ‘Durbars’, vibrant patchwork bedspreads, skillfully embroidered cushion covers and wall art. Their homes, whether a small city apartment in Mumbai or an idyllic bungalow in Nasik, have always been a source of inspiration to me.

Two decades hence, Manasi and I both find ourselves in London, pursuing our passions. Manasi has set up her successful lifestyle photography business where she captures people at their natural best. It is such a refreshing departure from the rigid posing for photographs and smiling despite your mutinous inner feelings. When I requested Manasi if she would do a session with us for our website, she agreed immediately. Her suggestion to shoot in a park worked out wonderfully for us – it portrays us as the young energetic trio we are, rather than patronizing matrons. As you can see, we had the most fantastic time doing the shoot, all thanks to Manasi for putting us at ease instantly. You can see more of her fantastic work on her website.

Manasi, thank you and good luck! XX