Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dharampalji (1922-2006)

This is a sentence typed after almost 3 hours of blankness and a loss for words to convey that - Dharampalji, a man who has had a profound influence on my thoughts, is no more.

This blog has referred to Dharampalji more than once. I request all the readers of this blog to please go through the following, and if you feel more interested, please visit the following links: Click here and here.

Dharampalji is a Gandhian Historian, who has done original research, by going through the British archives on India between 1775-1815, in dismantling a lot of myths created about Indian History over a period of time during the British Rule and after thanks to biases of the Historians as well as the needs of the polity. The historic truths that he establishes through scholarly study of the British archives give an entirely different outlook about India - far different from what is taught to its children today in schools.

In Dharampalji's own words:

If we investigate these (British) records on similar aspects further, on the basis of what is available in our archaeological, inscriptional and other historical sources, and what is still retained in the memory and consciousness of our people, we ought to be able to reconstruct our social and cultural past, and hopefully to mould our state and society accordingly.

Since Independence in 1947, it is this question of reconstruction of self and society on the foundation of our priorities, values, tradition and culture that seems to have completely eluded us, particularly our scholars, administrators and politicians. We appear to have forgotten that we can look back and learn from our own past. And based on that experience, construct our own unique identity within the context of our own affairs as well as that of the rest of the world. What do we as a nation - without leaning on others' ideological and material crutches - want? Do we have ingenuity or not? Can we make our points-as against aligning with one sort or another? I have a point to make as Indians?
We, as Indians - as a people of a nation have had an existence of only the past 60 years. But as a culture we have to go back to times immemorial. It is probably the responsibility of each of us to have an proper understanding of our culture, which may not occur without a study of our own history - that which is written with an Indian soul in it. One of the tasks that he has set for us:

... they (Indians) need to acquire a better awareness - especially as children and youth - of the human past of their localities, and to establish friendly relations with other beings including all kinds of animal life, bees, bushes and plants, rivers, lakes, ponds, hills, forests, soil, etc. which coexist with man. Similarly, we should begin to be aware of the linkage of each and every locality with the immediate region, of the region with the country, and of our country with other countries on this earth, and the earth's linkage with the cosmos.

These efforts would require new texts of well-told stories of localities, regions, countries, the world, and the various ideas about the beginning or non-beginning of the universe. Such knowledge and awareness would make our people feel confident and well informed and also enable them to partake of the Indian understanding of life and of natural phenomena.

It would also ground them in the elements of various sciences and technologies in agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry and crafts, as well as history, philosophy, grammar and language. Thus, by about the age of fourteen, our children - boys as well as girls - would have become competent citizens of their respective areas.

It is important to note that he talks of developing a world-view which is different from what we are being taught. A philosophy that is ingrained on different fundamentals.

I am not too sure if this made sense. Do drop in a comment in case of any questions. I shall be patient and glad to answer each of them. I apologise that I have not answered to some of the questions raised in this speech of Dharampalji which he gave at IIIT. I shall do so in my next post. You may read the speech here.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

On the Death of a Young Girl

Thoughts of a death at a young age, as a friend of mine writes in his blog, have shifted towards this English Translation of a French poem.

On the Death of Young Girl

Though childhood's days were past and gone
More innocent no child could be;
Though grace in every feature shone,
Her maiden heart was fancy free.

A few more months, or haply days,
And Love would blossom, - so we thought,
As lifts in April's genial rays
The rose its clusters richly wrought.

But God had destined otherwise,
And so she gently fell asleep,
A creature of the starry skies,
Too lovely for the earth to keep.

She died in the earliest womanhood;
Thus dies, and leaves behind no trace,
A bird's song in a leafy mood, -
Thus melts a sweet smile from a face.

Toru Dutt

Toru Dutt was born on March 4, 1856 in Bengal and she died on August 30, 1877, in the prime of her youth, at 21. Probably she foresaw her own death and translated these wonderful verses from French Poetry (A Sheaf Gleaned in French Poetry - Collection of Poems of Toru Dutt) -

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Haute Couture - Time for Khadi!

This post shall probably be a logical continuation of my previous one. It may appear far fetched for people to think of charkha today, and of coming up with the kind of Charkha that Gandhiji talked of, but hold's something to note!

I found this article on "Khadi Comeback" in the New Indian Express which goes something like this:

Khadi today is about revival. The khadi of old — the over-sized out-of-shape kurtas and jholas in the same old colours of sky blue, salmon pink, brown, sky blue, salmon pink, brown — is being nudged off the shelves by mini-skirts, jeans, dungarees, formal shirts, pants, woolens, and lehengas in every colour and size imaginable. Okay, kurtas too, only now they are made to size. Jholas too, only now you can carry them to a party.

With Italian designer Giorgio Armani and Indian designers such as Rohit Bal, Rakesh Thakore, Ritu Kumar, Ritu Beri, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Raghavendra Rathore, Rajesh Pratap Singh, and Manish Arora working on the fabric, khadi can now be worn anywhere, anytime. Even to that 9 am meeting.

Pin-striped suits in khadi? “I’ve already made them,” says Bangladeshi designer Bibi Russell. The designer, who works only with the cottage industries of various countries, literally teaching them the tricks of the trade, is right now in Jaipur putting together the suits and other clothes for an all-khadi fashion extravaganza in November, for national and international designers and buyers, spear-headed by Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia and choreographed by Prasad Bidapa.

Ironic isn’t it that khadi, which Mahatma Gandhi intended to be mass market, is increasingly becoming class market. It still provides employment to the poor, but is no longer the poor man’s fabric — some of the outfits created cost more than Rs 50,000.

“These ladies I am working with, in the villages of Rajasthan, they are creating magic with their spinning wheels,” says Russell. “And they don’t even realise it.”

Russell believes the charkah-spun khadi is the fabric of the future. “It’s a magic fabric. The same khadi fabric can make you feel cool in summer and warm in winter,” she says.

Which is why Manoj Chaturvedi, Chairman, Sarvodaya Ashram, who owns KhadiLine, a chain of exclusively khadi retail stores in India, is convinced his designers stores will be a hit, not just in the country, but all over the world. Chaturvedi says he is launching khadi burqas and kandooras in the Gulf next year. And vibrant printed garments for the South African market.

For years, Chaturvedi — a graduate from the London School of Economics — and his wife Neera were running the 54-year-old Sarvodaya Ashram in Etah, Uttar Pradesh, something which his father started. But it was only three years ago that he thought up the idea of retailing khadi. Not just the kurta-jhola type of khadi that the government-run stores stock, but casual, formal, semi-formal, Indian, indo-western and western wear. Fashionable khadi. “Over 400 styles.”

Says Chaturvedi: “Our attempt in promoting KhadiLine as a brand is primarily to preserve and propagate that element of delicacy of hand spun fabric as a culture, which was suffering from poor brand image.”

Money-wise, khadi is a fabric with huge potential, according to Chaturvedi. “If you take all the weavers in the entire SAARC region and make them work all day and night for years and years, they would still not be able to meet the demand of the market. That’s how ‘big’ khadi is.”

Chaturvedi also says that with the new interest world-over in everything eco-friendly, khadi fits the bill perfectly. And it’s for this reason that he has clients in the US and Europe both for fabric from Sarvodaya as well as clothes from KhadiLine.

Chaturvedi has eight KhadiLine showrooms in India. He plans to double that number in the next year. While also opening Khadi Lines in eight Tier II cities. His turnover, he knows, will more than quadruple in the next year. Chaturvedi is also opening KhadiLines in London, Dubai, Sharjah, and South Africa in 2007. Khadi clearly is going places. And we mean that literally — there is a proposal to make khadi uniforms for the air hostesses of Air India and Indian Airlines.