Fashion designer Agnimitra Paul is up to her pretty neck in sketching, stitching and styling. Not only does she retail her label, Inga from a glut of tony stores across the country, the comely designer is also creating costumes for some of Tollywood’s biggest productions. There’s Raja Mukherjee’s Bidhatar Lekha; Swapan Saha’s Hungama with Mithun Chakraborty and Rituparna Sengupta; and Haranath Chakraborty’s untitled film, again with Mithun.
But fashion never really figured in Agnimitra’s aspirations as a young girl. Becoming a doctor like her father, had always been a dream. Yet fate had other plans in store for her, and medicine’s loss became fashion’s gain. Today Agnimitra has worked her way to becoming a designer to reckon with, sharing rack space with some of the top guns of Indian fashion in chic ateliers like Kimaya, Ayamik, Amara and Fuel amongst others.
Agnimitra’s husband, Partho Paul is a busy entrepreneur whose family owns Palson Drugs & Chemical Industries, a leading pharmaceutical company. An executive director with the firm, Partha though, makes it a point to support and encourage Agnimitra’s ambitions of making it even bigger in the world of Indian fashion.
I’m from a family of doctors and academicians in Asansol. I first met Partho in 1992 when he’d visited my father on some official work. Our first impressions? My dad liked him instantly, my mother was a bit wary, and I thought he was an extremely genuine chap. I had just completed Class 12 then, with dreams of clearing the JEE and becoming a doctor. But they say when love comes calling, all else pales in comparison.
Our love affair took off in full earnest all right. Romantic cards were feverishly exchanged and gradually, we realised we wanted to marry each other. One of the biggest impediments though, proved to be my dream of becoming a doctor.
I ended up on the JEE’s waiting list for two consecutive years. Then my parents coughed up a donation to a medical college in Bangalore and I gained admission. But Partho was not in favour of my having a career in medicine. It’s difficult to explain — but for him dealing as he did with so many doctors, I would have then become just another client.
Partho comes from a very conservative business family in the city and none of their women folk ever held a job. Yet there I was, yearning to live my dream! But it was not to be. And I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life — to sacrifice my career for Partho. Yes, it was a traumatic time for me. But gradually I learned to accept it.
After marriage, I completed my masters in botany from Jadavpur University. At the same time, I took up fashion designing at BILAMS to keep busy. Who would have thought that a few hours every morning at BILAMS would make me embrace fashion design with such commitment! And this time around, Partho did not stand in my way. I was the first woman of the family to start working and I’m really very grateful to my husband and in-laws for their support and encouragement.
I’ve learned several life lessons from Partho. I learned how to cherish the relationships in my life even more by seeing how he deals with members of even his extended family. He will do anything and everything for them. Partho has also helped me become a more diplomatic, business-minded and professional worker.
Over and above that, I admire Partho’s sense of integrity. I can distrust even myself, but not him. Also he’s very possessive about me. And that’s a good thing sometimes. But at others, it gets annoying. That brings me to my litany of complaints.
First and foremost, is his punctuality problem. This gets especially irritating when we go for a movie. Now I always look to see who the film’s costume designer is and needless to say, I always miss the credit roll thanks to Partho. Next, he doesn’t spend quite enough time with our four-year-old son, Vighnesh thanks to his workaholic nature. What’s more, he has the worst temper possible, which was far worse before our marriage. I think our 10 years of togetherness has helped calm him down.
I was all of 24 when I met Agnimitra. I’d started working for my family’s pharmaceutical company and on a business trip to Asansol, I landed up at her father’s place and ran into her.
At our very first meeting, I was left totally floored. Even at that age, she was impressive, to say the least. Valentine’s Day cards and phone calls made for the first round of wooing. Mind you, this was a very long time ago, when we did not know of the wonder called the mobile phone. As a matter of fact, it was because of the voluminous phone bills that my parents came to know of what was happening between the two of us.
Our courtship lasted for four long years. We were both young and I was quite the conservative, so naturally we had our fair share of rows. The biggest of them all, I remember, was when Agnimitra went to Karnataka and got admitted into medical school. I kicked up a fuss and by the end of the week, she returned. Although her decision to give up a career in medicine has ultimately worked in her favour, it is still a subject that crops up when we fight.
We got married after facing quite a bit of initial opposition from her parents, as they wanted her to pursue a medical degree. I can safely say that marriage hasn’t changed Agnimitra much. She is still the same person I met so many years ago. But what it has done is given both of us a lot of contentment. And the most important gift, we have got out of this marriage is our son.
What I truly respect about my wife is her honesty and integrity. She has an unwavering commitment to our relationship. While at times, I do resent the demands on her time that her profession makes, I am also extremely proud of her achievements in her field. I don’t think there’s anything more I could ever ask of this relationship.
Photograph by Rashbehari Das