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Mela mood at the shopping paradise

Look out for the potter, the bangle seller and the `lavancha' artist who have invaded the city.



A welcome opportunity for craftspersons at Shoppers' Stop.

ALMOST EVERY other village in India hosts an annual funfair or mela where craftsmen, games, rides, and food stalls draw crowds. Unfortunately, we in the cities cannot hope to create the gaiety and magic of such a fair, but Shopper's Stop makes a fair attempt, with the theme of their annual Parikrama exhibition being that of a mela.

Walk into Shopper's Stop till August 24 and you'll find contemporary lifestyle products sharing the limelight with a range of crafts from all over the country. The store bears a colourful look, with puppets from Rajasthan decorating the entrance. There are fake stalls set up all around, bearing names such as `Chaat Bhandar', to give that mela feel. Evenings have people eating cotton candy outside the store, buying balloons and taking buggy rides.

Shopper's Stop has created a whole new product line for this exhibition, where everything bears an Indian theme. Batik, Ikkat and block prints find their way into almost all the clothes. Kurtis for men and T-shirts with Indian prints are plentiful. The focal points in the store are decorated with terracotta pots and strings of bangles. Craftsmen, painters, bangle makers, and sculptors, have taken up little nooks, where they showcase their products and tell you about their specialty.

Liroz Khan has come in from Pipli in Orissa and proudly exhibits his collection of colourful applique work. He and his family have been in the business for over a couple of decades and although a little shy in the environment so foreign to him, Liroz is fairly articulate when it comes to describing his vibrant hand bags, tablecloths, umbrellas with mirror work, and lampshades with floral patterns and divine figures. "We use a special needle to do this work," he says. "The men do the cutting of the patches and the women stitch them on the cloth." It takes four to five days to make one item and he generally markets them through exhibitions.

The `lavancha' artists hailing from Batla in Karnataka excitedly show their products that are unique: made from the root of the Khus Khus plant. "Our items have a dual purpose. They spread fragrance and have utility value." The initiative was started four years ago to give women an extra income. Today 40 women in a workshop bring out colourful pegs, pen stands, wall hangings, letter racks etc., all bearing animal faces and themes. Each product takes a while to make (the process of washing, drying and using the root itself takes a week) and fetches Rs.150 to Rs.300, earning the women around Rs. 1500 a month.

The lac bangles stall from Hyderabad is a little crowded, with a number of women making their selection. The artisan gladly steps forward to tell you that his family has been making the bangles, studded with mirrors, beads and stones, for years now. "It's a good business," he says and goes on to demonstrate the method of making them, using the powder from a stone and then colouring it and shaping it to the requirement. "I charge Rs.75-Rs.100 for the bangles," he says "but I also make these reversible silver necklaces, painted with lac on both sides, costing Rs. 1000."

Ramalingam, who hails from Tamil Nadu, is elated at the response he has had here and is requesting for another week to showcase his products. Speaking only in the local language and dressed in a `veshti', he is accompanied by his grandson who describes the artistic wood-carvings that his grandfather started making 60 years ago. The family of 15 works together, making carvings of mythological and divine figures which bear an antique look. Made of neem wood, Ramalingam's products could cost you anywhere from Rs. 250 to Rs.1,25,000.

. Rafik, from Bangalore, exhibits his etched wood items, most of which are symbols of Reiki and Feng Shui and cost between Rs.750 and Rs.6,000. Rajasthani artists showcase products such as jewellery boxes with Minakari work on brass, beaded pouches, etc.

Almost all the margins are being passed on to the craftsmen. Vijaykumar, the potter at the entrance, is thrilled with the exposure he has got and quips, "I have made more here in a week, than I would make in nine months otherwise." Vijaykumar and his brother work from their home in Frazer Town and make beautiful creations in various shades, on terracotta. His decorative pieces are priced between Rs.50 and Rs.1,500.

TINA GARG

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