The Telegraph
Sunday , July 31 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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An earthy experience

There have been many turning points in my life. Most of them have been related to my professional experiences. They have driven my inner reflections on life and instilled a love for textiles in me. Seeing yarns metamorphose into beautiful textiles in myriad colours and textures taught me not only about the process of their creation but also about life.

A very memorable moment, 15 years ago, was sitting in an Indian village as my first big collection took shape. I watched the raw cotton being woven and then imbued with indigo dyes. The purity of the craft left me spellbound.

This made me realise that no matter how luxurious the product is, it all starts at the roots. It was a humbling experience.

My second turning point was working with weavers of Sambalpur, Orissa, who specialise in executing tie-and-dye prints and hand-weaving the intricate Sambalpur checks. I realised that even though they were uneducated, they were so gifted that they could create complex designs with utmost ease.

Another unforgettable moment was when I visited Assam several years ago to witness the cultivation of Eri and Muga silks. The rehabilitation camps for former terrorists were adjacent to the silk farms. It was both an unnerving and enriching experience to watch the former terrorists, who had laid down their arms and surrendered, being retrained for purposeful lives. They were no different from anyone else. I felt that there’s a thin line dividing someone we could classify as a terrorist and a person who believes that he/she is fighting for his rights against a callous state.

I think most of my learning experiences have been a result of my travels and interaction with people. Today, as a designer if I don’t react to my experiences and environment I cannot continue to create.

(As told to Chitra Anand Papnai)

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