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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Amritsar Calling: Meet the global fashionistas from the sacred city

Tarini Peshawaria and Sukhmani Sardana are the two influencers of town who make their presence felt, inspire, and motivate, making life seem way more colourful than the prophets of the mundane can ever dull.

Written by Gunbir Singh | Chandigarh |
June 29, 2022 8:17:53 pm
Tarini Peshawaria and Sukhmani Sardana. (Photo: Instagram)

Two girls from town walked the red carpet at Cannes last month. It was a moment that was the talk of the town. Some wannabes researched for ways in which they could run them down with gossip. Were they invited; did they pay for their tickets and stay? You know they did not even get accommodation at Cannes, said one. Well, negative minds will always look at ways and means to remain in the dark shadows of the unreal, but the majority revelled in their accomplishments. These two are the influencers of town who make their presence felt, inspire, and motivate, making life seem way more colourful than the prophets of the mundane can ever dull.

It was indeed an unparalleled and undeniable moment under the sun for Tarini Peshawaria. She was always a child loved and talked about by my mother who was best of friends with Tarini’s Nani. She reminded me of Cinderella as she pouted and pirouetted on the red at Cannes with the poise of Marilyn Monroe, and yet what has me most intrigued is her down-to-earth humility. She defines herself as, “A gap-toothed girl with a strange voice,” on her Instagram page which has a massive organic fan following. What marvels me is also the downright ease of self-being with which she presents herself to her ever-growing fans. An attitude that is beyond compare for a young lady who has blossomed especially after her wedding to her childhood love, Simar. They travelled to the Philippines for his job, then to London, and now are settled in Indonesia.

Tarini in her inimitable style projects affordable solutions for women for body care. In a space on social media that is growing cluttered with much, she stands tall with ingenuity and honesty, with simplicity and elegance. From a small-town girl to the Cosmopolitan Beauty Influencer of the Year 2022, it is a journey worth applauding.

I have talked about Sukhmani Sardana in these columns, and she carried herself with a flair at the French fiesta in her Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla saree ensemble fit for an Egyptian queen. Her accomplishments are many and she manages to skim the surface of tinsel worlds and fashion with nimble steps keeping within reach her self-acquired skills of writing and portraying the best, even better than reality. That this was a year when India was the official country of honour at Cannes, representing India with Indianness was appreciated by one and all, she says. And the white she wore is one of the nation’s three primary colours of course and stands for peace, she adds. Well, our Udan Patola definitely got the vocabulary of fashion right to the T.

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These girls make my toes tap and sing that Punjabi song, “Chann di kuddi, badalaan di bhain… Bijlee bijlee kain…Cinderella.” These are the apples of the world’s eyes. And who could be prouder than us?

But was this the Magnum Opus of the capabilities of the city’s progeny? I suspect not, as they tend to spring bigger surprises upon us with more laurels and achieving larger-than-life ambitions just when we think this is it. I am certain these two have more in store for us in the coming days as they sail with success and live their dreams at the high tables and walkways of glitz and glamour.

On a personal, somewhat incomparable note (please do not laugh!), I still recall the opportunity I got in 2013 to walk a red carpet albeit of a different kind. Two dozen representatives of twelve faiths were invited to Ise Japan when the ancient Monastery of the Shinto faith was opened to visitors for the first time in its 2000-year-old history. They actually laid out red carpets and walked us down the city as a coveted group that was making history. It was the moment of a lifetime and the privilege and excitement for this twosome at Festival de Cannes becomes a mite more imaginable by the writer at some distinct level.

Ritu Kumar and the Mehtas


But back to the fashionistas of the city, who became trailblazers. Ritu Kumar takes the cake and the icing upon it by being the creating a fashion brand five decades ago. She has been ruling the roost with her vogue sets that project Indian women in their traditional ensembles as well as the modern chic with earthy tones and confident styles that have been the craze of the fashion-conscious for decades. Born to the Mehtas of this city, she gets her craft from here. Kudos to her indeed.

Bringing back the Indian design frames from museums across Europe, a reverse migration of the paisley and the bootie, back from colonial confines to the source, India, is no mean task. Even buying into the heritage garments of the royalties, the erstwhile bade sahibs and the begums, ushering to the fore Indian design and fabric diversity. Searching the back alleys, the villages and the oral histories for craftsmen, acumen, and enterprise. Designing garments to adorn the likes of Lady Diana Spencer and Jemima Goldsmith, Kareena Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, is the forte of our home grown Ritu Kumar, the Queen of Indian Fashion.

Her label, one that goes by her name, became the aspirational possession of women, and continues to be so after all these years. For this remarkable feat and for embellishing and projecting India remarkably she was awarded the coveted Padma Shri.


In fact, she has sown the seeds of so much talent in her hometown as well. The enormous amount of good work being done by the boutiques in the city is phenomenal as well. Their ideas of design and accessorising attract the fashion-conscious to assemble with silks and cottons, rayons, and chiffons, or just to browse and pick from the collections on offer. They travel from shores afar and cities within the peninsula, the discerning ones who can spot taste and quality, stitched, and designed to perfection, to embellish selves and shine through to blazing shades of envy. Yahi toh!

One is often reprimanded for tending to be an admirer of women and a tad more appreciative of them. Well, it is so, and I am absolutely enamoured by these ladies of stature. I believe even thinking of emancipation and empowerment is demeaning to our women since they are no less than equal partners in life. In fact, I firmly believe that they are way more proficient in stretching their abilities to exceptional levels and thereby have the capacity in this day and age of creativity perhaps better than us men when they set their minds to anything at all.

“Kee kareyae… Jhanjhar vajjdi na mutiyaar bina, chup kar jaa na kar shor, nahi chalnaa tera zorr,”- The anklet rings on the feet of the young lass, so shut up your cacophony, your brute force will not work here.

Waris Ahluwalia and the city

But let’s give the devil his due, to the Captain Kirks of the town. Those ‘who go where no man has been before.’ One such, whose name and fame beg significant mention, is Waris Ahluwalia. An Amritsari by all standards, Waris took to the streets of Brooklyn at a very early age and made enormous strides. It was his array of diamond rings that first caught the attention of Maxfield’s. The buy was a sell-out on their counters, and so began the journey that makes him shuttle between NYC and LA, his two bases of operation. If he is not designing or flaunting his style statements, he is merrily acting in movies.

Born to Paramjit Singh and Darshan Kaur in our city, this Ahluwalia adorns his turban and a flowing beard with the panache of a true-blue Sikh and walks the ramp wearing fashion statements and reflecting Parisian haute couture on catwalks with blondes and brunettes of the day. And why not? After all, he was honoured with a place of envy on the Internationally Best Dressed List by Vanity Fair and one of the Top 10 Most Impactful People by Vogue. Today he has his own fortress of glamour, The House of Waris, and travels with ease between Rajasthan, Rome, and Paris among other places of consequence, connecting craft with boutique hunger. Be it the House of Waris Rare boutique in Gritti Palace Venice or a pop-up tea-room under The House of Waris Botanicals label in Chelsea, Waris makes waves and commands attention. Who else but an Amritsari knows that? We all sit at Giani Tea Stall, at home and in our offices sipping our own chai, nodding to his prowess many times each day.


Meanwhile, outside the Ritu Kumar showroom at Amritsar, a white covered jeep had emptied out its occupants, an excited bevy of women across all ages. The octogenarian Harmej Singh looks at his son Chindah at the wheel and wonders who this Google Bibi was. She had constantly guided the vehicle from the village to this showroom in town. Chindah in defence of his soon-to-be-wed sis explains the necessity and the sensibility of this trousseau shopper’s paradise to their father.

“Bapu aah taan fashion di nani da ghar wah, eithey taan jeb dhilli karni pau.”


For these gods and goddesses of creativity, good moolah needs to be spent as offerings made to sustain the good things in life.

So says the wife … who am I to say otherwise?


(Gunbir Singh is a philanthropist, environmentalist and historian who loves all things Amritsari)

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First published on: 29-06-2022 at 08:17:53 pm

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