Nature in its Colourful Avatar

Spring was slowly giving way to the next season as was evident from the rustling of the leaves under our feet. The group had scampered around – some seen bending over leaves on the ground, some standing tall to wriggle off a few flowers from the branches and some carefully scrutinising a pebble. We were off to a curious and an interesting start at Aranya – a Natural Dyes and Design workshop in the midst of wildlife at Kanha National Park.

Fabrics and design may not evoke any association with tigers, but they share a deep connection with the natural surroundings. Nature not only inspires creativity, and brilliant ideas, but turns out that it’s also a warehouse of natural dyes! Aranya was a step towards understanding the myriad applications of natural dye. It set us thinking on how we could replace chemical colours with a bio-degradable solution. (Yes, that’s possible!)

 Colours and Imprints

Laden with the choicest floral varieties, tree barks, leaves of all sizes, colours and textures, we excitedly made our way back to the workshop venue, where Arun our facilitator would demonstrate a simple but powerful printing technique. Some of us didn’t hesitate to pick large pebbles, but the surprising find was snail shells! It was only later that we realised that the textures and patterns on these artifacts would serve as design imprints too, in addition to lending colours and shapes.

The first task was to choose artifacts as per the print design in mind and soak them in a bowl of vinegar-ed solution. These had to remain in the solution for about 15-20 mins, in order to fix the colour. Earlier in the day, we had started off with a “circle time” where all of us gathered for the first time for a brief introduction. Standing in a circle and holding hands, Namrata our moderator initiated a simple hand squeeze exercise for the friendly vibe and energy to travel around. It was a circle of a homogenous group of people from as close as Bhopal and as far as Chennai and Kolkata, which now stood huddled to place their little treasures in the solution. It soon came to resemble a community bowl and a colourful coming together of the group. A pure white georgette silk fabric chosen for the exercise had to be rinsed in an RFD solution that included cow dung and alum. After drying, it was ready to be “printed”. The flaming tesus and heady mohuas were brought out and onto the fabric. The peepal leaves with its venous strains and the stained pebbles promised to bring out earthy tones and not to mention the dual toned leaves that were to create a twin effect. The snail shells now felt like a treasured find indeed. The benign whites and yellows were dipped in coloured solution (red, yellow and indigo) before being used.

The next step was to place a twig at one end of the fabric and roll it tightly into cloth bundle. After securing the bundle with twine, these went into a pan of boiling hot water. A few hours later when these were taken off and untied, it was sight to behold! Nature’s bounty had left colourful imrpints and patterns.

 More Inspiration from Nature

Ghana was our facilitator for the evening session. She brought out another creative connection with nature. Following her instructions, we were once again on foot, looking around this time for that one thing that interested us the most. It could be anything simple or outrageous but realistic enough to draw on paper! A small section f this drawing (that could serve as a probable design) was to be sketched on to a graph paper. After tracing this on a soft cut-out followed by meticulous grafting it was now ready to serve as a stencil for printing. It was the day of revelations as we understood nature as a bountiful source.

The next day we ventured deeper into the forest on a safari. The tiger was elusive barring for one group that was lucky to spot both a leopard and a tiger. But for the next four hours we were in complete tune with the sounds and sights of the forest. The pristine and serene surroundings are the best treat one can ask for.

On the third and day of grand finale, the jungle mood and the collective vibe was captured on a wall painting. Once again led by Ghana, there was picturesque jungle scene, a small piece painted by each one of us using only the natural colours. We all had left a little piece of us in the precincts of Kanha.

 All members of the workshop would like to thank Sanjay Shukla, Field Director of Kanha National Park for making this visit fruitful and hospitable.

True Tone is the  company that cooks herbal or natural dye recipes for craft and industry level use. Besides ​this, they sell natural dyed fabrics and do job work dyeing as well. Arun is the patent holder of the herbal dyeing process who has standardise​d natural dyes.

​He is a passionate environmentalist and is working to replace chemical dye with natural ones. He will be guiding the ​dye extraction and dyeing process.

​Art Compassion is a community art movement who help create, curate and collaborate art. It works with multiple artists and facilitate such sessions. It will guide the aesthetic expressions and exploration in the workshop. ​ Ghana is the co-founder, a compassionate artist and textile designer.​

Biome is a living dream towards a sustainable future.  It is a product and movement. Product is natural dyed collection of organic and hand-woven clothing. And movement is awareness interactions, seminar with school children and natural dyeing workshops to learn about sustainability in textiles.
​Namrata is the founder and ethical designer at Biome.​


A Medley of People, But Who Dun It?

Book review – A Closetful of Skeletons

Closetful_Web SizeIf you are an avid reader, it is quite possible to build a certain image of an author and start associating them with certain genres (only). Tanushree Podder’s latest,  A Closetful of Skeletons is a departure from her other books where at least three of the titles have the armed forces as the backdrop and two are historical fiction. The “rainbow chasing” author decided to go sniffing for bones this time! Knowing fully well that it is a murder mystery (the title does its bit) I picked this up without hesitation. For one, her writing brings a sense of comforting familiarity. Second, her subjects are always thoroughly researched, thus ensuring a delightful read. And then who doesn’t like a nice who-dun-it? Continue reading

The Assassinations A Novel of 1984

Book Review

Tragedy strikes the nation when the Prime Minister of the country takes the bullets from her own bodyguards. Unfortunately that is not all. The assassination unleashes a series of tragedies – the bitterness and suspicion between two communities always known to live in harmony; the undercurrents between two people who thought there is nothing except love between them; and scars and memories that refuse to leave the “victims”…

Vikram Kapur brings it all in a sensitive portrayal of what could have just been a sweet tender love story of two youngsters, engaged to be married.  Set in Delhi of 1984, the story begins with Prem and Deepa who come from Sikh and Hindu families respectively.  After initial apprehension from Deepa’s father – who still bears the scars of Partition in 1947 – he agrees to go ahead with the engagement. As the two families become involved in the wedding preparation, the news shocks them beyond words. As events unfold in the aftermath, it shows through the micro lens of these two families, a larger potrayal. Prem, a victim of anti-Sikh riots comes out not just bruised but bearing the scars and full of anger. He is torn between Deepa and allegiance to his religion.
By creating an inter-religion love angle, the author traces the events that gripped the capital in the winter of 1984. For those having witnessed that horrific season, it even serves to refresh the memory. It shows how in the aftermath the everyday-ness of life is threatened. Prem’s father, a doctor, no longer commutes to his clinic all alone. He car-pools with his Sikh neighbours. Property dealers hound them with phone calls with cheap sales deals, assuming they will flee the city. Prem’s younger sister who is at the receiving end of taunts at school and the cold distancing by her friends,  is shaken after a frightening phone call. It captures the lives gripped in perpetual fear, where they have to rely on a non-Sikh servant to fetch milk and vegetables. In the backdrop of rioting, the author shows how it becomes impossible to extend solidarity to a fellow human being and how at a crucial moment there is nothing but just concern for one’s own life. Prem is being escorted out safely by his father and refuses to help a desolate Sikh-woman who is being held by the rioters.

The narrative balances these events and the equation between the couple, and bringing us to contemplate what will happens to the couple…

The blurb sums up the sentiments of the book and the author very well. “This memorable book captures the turbulence of those times, while chronicling the ways in which continuing to live means coming to terms with many kinds of deaths.”

The first two chapters could have been more enjoyable had it not been for the attempt at flowery prose. This tones down later but I couldn’t help wonder on the inconsistency of the editorial hand. The gripping plot thankfully makes up for the minor inconvenience at the beginning.


Panes, None Too Plain

Between a small conversation and a serious idea, one thing led to another …  and then I was on the plane to experience my own sling.  Singapore was never on my travel list but here I was, heading to Chinatown to explore yet another spot in this city of cultural heterogeneity.
I exited the MRT station and just after I turned the corner, a beautiful façade caught my attention. It wasn’t one of those innovative architecture that Singapore boasts of, but an array of shutter windows from the buildings that lined the street! Uninhibited and alluring, they confidently pulled out the walls and streets from the ordinariness. Each window is unique enough to demand a fresh scrutiny. Continue reading

Visit and Stay at Gaj Retreat

It’s not hard to find urban dwellers on lookout for getaways to escape the daily grind and the cacophony of city life. For Delhites and denizens of Punjab, Gaj Retreat in Manaswal village (Hoshiarpur district, Punjab) is a convenient option. Just a little over two hours of drive from Chandigarh, the retreat is located in one of the quieter parts overlooking the Shivaliks and river Shwahn in the vicinity. Continue reading

Tirthan Angler’s Retreat

If you are a traveler, love mountains and occasionally love to tuck into a comfortable place amidst scenic surroundings, Tirthan Angler’s Retreat should be one of the top considerations. The retreat offers a right mix of pristine setting and luxury. Continue reading