Lovers they were!

Like every girl in love she wondered why people said love is overrated. What she was going through was anything but overrated… What she felt was overwhelming, all-consuming! Despite all the uncertainties of their relationship (if you can call it a relationship that is), she loved what they had together. The keyword is “together”. She could write a story about every conversation they had. Every word that came out of his mouth, everything he did – from the way he smiled to the way he looked when he was upset, every touch… Everything was indestructibly etched in her mind. While she was sitting with her books in a romantic dreamy state, she could not help but recall what he had said the other day. She blushed, thought of how she felt in his arms, and then repeated that sentence in her head, “I want to go to sleep in your arms.” She felt like an idiot for not telling him that she too wanted that. If only her shy self could stay in check around him. Yes, they were in each other’s arms… Hoping against hope for a forever like that. The world gave them a zillion signals to warn them of impending separation, but lovers I tell you… And lovers they were!

Lost in him

On any other day, she would have reveled in a caffeine-loaded chatter session with her girlfriends at their regular hangout. But today was not that day. It took a little while before she noticed her friend furiously snapping her fingers in her face. She realised she had zoned out of an intense discussion. “What’s up with you today? Where are you? And what’s with the smile and blush?” her friend asked, irritated. She smiled again, wrapped her friend in a hug and said with irrational exuberance, “I think I have lost it. I will see you guys later.” On her way back home, her blush deepened. It was him. It was him again. She was thinking about what he had said on the phone last night. She was replaying that exact moment in her head over and over again where he said, “You are my darling, my life.” She wondered how her friend could ever understand this teenage-like madness if she were to explain the stupid smile. Yes, it was madness. But she was getting more and more addicted to her madly-in-love self. She was getting more and more addicted to him.

Modern India?

I was at this social event a few days back. I am happily antisocial when it comes to attending these club events or get-togethers where I barely know people (by knowing I don’t mean waving at each other and exchanging fake smiles all along). But I attended this one as it was organised by a dear friend. The main highlight of the event was a fashion show which was followed by a question-answer round. One judge asked this participant about the need and importance of marriage in a woman’s life, and that if it is indispensable. Her response shocked me to say the least. She said and I quote, “A woman is born to get married, have kids, raise them in the best way possible; a woman is incomplete without marriage and kids. I think I am complete in every way.” The judge retorted, “So according to you, all single women are incomplete.” The participant said absolutely, they are. This comes from a female who is well-educated and falls in the so-called modern woman bracket. I really don’t want to discuss the merits and demerits of married life (for both men and women), let’s keep that for another day. But this thought process really makes me wonder about all the progress I thought we made as a society! Sad!

Have you heard of freedom of expression?

It is okay to take things at face value once in a while… Stop ascribing negative motives to a movie that was just trying to highlight the oneness of all humans. And if not that, remember we live in a country that gives us freedom of speech. Movies are a form of art… If you don’t like what you see, it is okay… It is not the end of the world. Move on! You are entitled to an opinion but not to demand a ban! All the drama and mess around the satirical comedy #PK sends a terrible message to the filmmakers – Stay away from sensitive topics, especially religion!

Reading Dongri to Dubai

D2DWhen I watch movies, read books or listen to music, I look for some real intense emotions! Usually, fiction novels do the trick for me. Fiction books have that power… They have great characterization, gripping plot, and strong dose of emotions… That is one reason why I have never been a fan of non-fiction. Only a handful that I read had that spirit. But this non-fiction, that I am reading currently, has overwhelmed me, but in a positive way. #DongriToDubai, a gangster non-fiction, is not just another book. It offers some rarely-heard-of details of the Bombay underworld. It shocks you! It keeps you on the edge. The book chronicles the history of the Bombay mafia; in many instances it attempts to portray the human side of the notorious gangsters, leaving you in a state of perpetual wonder… In some situations, you almost feel it is okay to blame the situation than the person in question… A must-read, I say.

Ajrakhpur: Keeping traditions alive

AbdulRehmaanIndia’s Kutch district of Gujarat is much more than a destination with sandy beaches and sunshine; it is an Aladdin’s cave of traditional handmade artisan crafts. Ajrakhpur, a tiny village in Kutch, is one such great place fighting to keep alive the dying art of Ajrakh, a form of block printing on cloth.

Ajrakhpur! A place that perpetuates time-honored traditions through its handiwork, a place that shuns the idea of automation, a place where people create things by hand, a place where they practice an art that has been passed down through generations.

If you admire and love Indian handicrafts, you will understand why I wanted to share this interview with Abdul Rehmaan Khatri on my blog. Rehmaan is an eight generation Ajrakh printer and one of the few left who is carrying on this tradition. His three sons have also been trained in the same craft. Read on…

  • What exactly is Ajrakh?

Ajrakh is a legacy of textile production in western India that goes back over four thousand years to the early civilizations of the Indus Valley. I can trace my roots back to a 16th century ancestor who came to India from Sindh, bringing with him the craft of Ajrakh printing. The art derives its name from the Hindi phrase ‘Aaj ke din rakh’ or keep it for the day as the process Ajrakh block printing is pretty long with each stage involving many days.

It is a laborious but intricately beautiful craft. Our (Khatri community) ancestors have been printing with Ajrakh blocks for centuries. They migrated to Dhamadka, Kutch from the Sindh region in Pakistan. Traditional Ajrakh printing continues in craft villages such as our’s (Ajrakhpur) and Dhamadka. Ajrakh block printing is a lengthy and demanding process consisting of several steps. Tradition teaches that the longer an artisan waits before beginning the next step, the more eye-catching the final print will be.  The two-week printing process results in stunning printed cloth in traditional form.

  • What is the process like?

It takes skill and patience to make Ajrakh. There are between 14-16 different stages of dyeing and printing, which takes 14-21 days to complete. The resulting cloth is pleasing to touch and jewel-like in appearance. Ajrakh prints are dominated by the use of intense patterning and jewel like colors: rich crimson and deep blue, black outlines and white accents are all obtained from natural dyes and fixed with an eco-friendly mordant, alum. The beauty of Ajrakh relies on expert manipulation of these materials for dyeing and printing. They are all bio-degradable and environment friendly.

Our main dye sources are varied: red is obtained from madder root, alizarin, sappan wood and lac; blue comes from indigo plant; yellow is from pomegranate rinds and turmeric; green is achieved by over-dyeing indigo with turmeric and pomegranate; and black is produced from scrap iron and jaggery. The use of henna, rhubarb root and tamarisk also adds to the variety of shades we produce.

For printing, we carve required design into hard wood to make the blocks, which are the essential tools for printing. These blocks are dipped sequentially into a dye bath and stamped onto the fabric with skilled precision. A seperate block is used for each colour; some fabrics may have as many as 500 block repeats in one metre of fabric.

  • Is the process completely manual?

The process of creating an Ajrakh involves no machinery; it is entirely manual. Besides it provides steady employment for local craftspeople.

  • What does the future hold for this craft?

We are now receiving recognition both nationally and internationally. The future looks promising. People are becoming more aware about the advantages of supporting sustainable fashion. Various renowned designers have already embraced eco-fashion & are working with sustainable & eco-friendly materials only.


*Ajrakh block-printed stuff is easily available at stores like Fabindia, Good Earth, Anokhi, etc. I request y’all to please support the craftsmen and buy their stuff to preserve India’s traditional handicrafts in the process.