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Open Thread

Sari aficionado Soha Parekh’s coffee table book celebrates the grandeur of the whole nine yards

Written by VIDYA PRABHU | Published: April 20, 2012 1:27:03 am

Sari aficionado Soha Parekh’s coffee table book celebrates the grandeur of the whole nine yards

Soha Parekh can vividly remember the Teacher’s Day function in her last year at school. “I was all of 15 and it was my first time in a sari. I was so excited about it,” she reminisces. Since then,the 47-year-old businesswoman — a director at the Raycon Group of Companies — has had a very fulfilling affair with India’s traditional drape. “Since I belonged to typical Gujarati family from Ahmedabad,I took to the sari early on. I was a fan of the Banarasi sari and the Upada sari by the time I was 17,” says Parekh,who boasts of an enviable collection of saris,including those she inherited from her mother.

It is only now that she has managed to take her fondness for the sari to another level. Her coffee table book Sari: Splendour in Threads will be launched at Mumbai’s Gallery BMB on Wednesday with known sari lovers Shobhaa De,Sangita Jindal and Pheroza Godrej reading out excerpts.

This venture has helped Parekh combine her passion for books with rich Indian culture. She first conceptualised this book around three years ago,after which began a series of visits to different parts of the country -— from Kutch and Ajrakpur in Gujarat to Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. “Apart from tracing the evolution of the sari through several legends that I chanced upon during my research,I also dwelt on my interactions with master weavers such as Goverdhan Gajam of the Telia Rumal sari fame (from Andhra Pradesh) and the Salvis of Patan Patola (Gujarat),” Parekh says.

In the course of her research,she came across the legend regarding Maheshwari saris. “It is said that the Holkar queen Ahilyabai Holkar had instructed her weavers to come up with austere geometrical motifs inspired by the Maheshwar fort as opposed to the floral ones. This explains why the Maheshwari saris are so simple,” she says.

A significant outcome of this venture was that she became more aware of the needs of the weavers and printers. “Across regions,the craftsmen are not getting their due as a chunk of the money from the sale is being siphoned off by middlemen. In the future,I plan to hold exhibitions where the weavers get paid directly. For now,a portion of the sales proceeds from the book will go to the weavers’ communities in Kanchipuram and Gujarat,” she says.

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