Early morning, the rustle of the starched saree would wake me up… there would be this faint aroma of Marh ( the residual rice boiled water, often used to starch cotton clothes) and I would instinctively know that Ma was going about her daily chores.
Ma would be ready to leave just after I left, having sorted the house. But never did I see that being a deterrent for her not wearing a saree; more importantly a Taant er saree. In fact, my most abiding memory is that of wiping my face in her aanchol. It was only the precarious monsoons which would call for “synthetic” sarees, as their generation would call it. I believe most of our earliest memories of our mothers would be that of Taant er saree or Dhonekhali – stiffly starched, with a variation in borders with small motifs in the body.
The Bengal Handloom sarees actually have been perennial favourite. The fall of the fabric, the subtlety of the patterns, and the translucent intensity of the colours have made them much loved and sought after all over the country, so much so that when people would be visiting Kolkata, they would be sure to carry a list to take back some. Actually the Taant er sarees are perfect for our tropical climate; they are light and become softer with use.
Growing up in the quintessential Bengali household, I was struck by this textile wonder –the modest piece of Bengal Handloom. My mother, aunts, older cousins and women from our extended family, all wearing a variety of Taant actually made me fall in love with the sarees very early in my life. I realised that the Bengal Taant is very versatile. You can dress up,… dress down; wear it to work or a wedding. I noticed that it just needed the correct accessories – Wear silver, pearls, junk or stick to traditional gold; it all goes beautifully with the Taant.
The Handloom saree went through a series of lows in the past few decades. It became a common myth that the handloom sarees were impractical and high maintenance. – low in performance and high in maintenance. Power looms and synthetic fibers reigned so much that Losing patrons by hundreds, the weavers started suffering. They started compromising on quality to keep their livelihood and made do with the same patterns for years, thereby stopping all experimental works.
When I started weaving tales of these six yards, I was always certain that I will work with handlooms and thus I, in my limited capacity have worked with Taant, visiting the weavers personally all the time. It had been a collaborative effort, where I have sat with them for hours, trained and guided them on new techniques, devised newer designs and they in turn have taught me the nuances of various fabrics, weaving patterns, spoken about the long lost designs . I, in my humble efforts, have always tried giving them their due respect and paying them fairly.
I have tried reviving many patterns and designs which were lost or hard to find like the duure saree (all over stripes), the Chatai paar and the Nokshi Paar (borders with patterns and motifs). I have also tried experimenting with the thread counts making the fall of the saree better. In fact, lot of people say that I have given the Bengali Tnaat a quirky make-over.
In fact I have also experimented with colours in the Nextiles line of sarees making them quite a popular, go-to sarees with my younger clients. Sarees, which are versatile and can be draped and accessorised in various ways.
Tell us about your favourite Nextile handloom/ Taant saree and what you teamed it with…