India Journal: Day One with Nidhi Khurana in New Delhi

It’s Thursday, November 17, almost noon, and I’m half way around the world from where I started from in San Jose, California, recovering from a 22-hour flight across the time zones.

Nidhi Khurana with her saris.

Nidhi Khurana with her saris.

I arrive in India to discover that while in-flight, the government had secretly decided to de-monetize, eliminating 86% of the available cash. Little did I know, and only exchanged the minimum of dollars to rupees at the airport. There is no money in banks or ATMs. We are tethered to our credit cards and those who take them. This is called adventure travel.

Mud resist block printed sari.

Mud resist block printed sari. I want one!

Fortunately, my dear friend, textile artist Nidhi Khurana, who I met in Oaxaca early in 2016, is taking me under her wing along with her friend, textile designer Aditi Prakash, who is the mastermind behind Pure Ghee Designs.  We spent my first day in Delhi immersed in textiles.

Aditi Prakash shows me how to pleat the sari

First, on in Nidhi’s flat, where I got an introduction to the sari and a portion of Nidhi’s collection that was laid out on the bed before me, mostly silks, some woven with gold threads, representing all regions of the country.

It was hard to pick a favorite, and much like playing dress-up.

Do you like this ikat? It was hard to pick a favorite, and much like playing dress-up.

Aditi is an encyclopedia of India’s cloth. She can instantly tell which state or region a textile comes from based on the story woven into the border of each sari. It was all dizzying but the textures and colors sent me to the moon. She explains that that are over 160 different ways to wear the sari. She tells me this as she pleats the ends of the fabric and begins to drape it around me.

Stack of sari fabric, neatly folded and ready for hangers.

Stack of sari fabric, neatly folded, some tie-dyed, embroidered, woven with gold.

I am reminded of how Oaxaca women wear their faldas, their skirts, which are pleated around the waist and then held to their bodies by the woven cinch waistband.  Indian women tuck the ends of their sari’s into the skirt or pants waistband. The intricately woven border, only a portion of the cloth length, is draped over the shoulder so it hangs down the back in full display.

The inside is just as beautiful.

The inside is just as beautiful.

The cloth body and this border are two separately woven pieces that are then woven together to form one length of cloth. It’s important to examine the joinery, since the best saris will combine the two with invisible stitches.

Nidhi picks rocket, chard and dill on her rooftop garden.

Nidhi picks rocket, chard and dill on her rooftop garden.

After Nidhi prepared a vegetarian lunch of steamed rice, cauliflower, peas, fresh salad greens from her rooftop garden, and delicious homemade Indian Gooseberry Pickle (now declared to be my favorite), we set out for Hauz Khas Village to find noted textile collector/gallery owner Sunaina Suneja, also known as Dimple. She is the aunt of Saket B&B owner Anand, a wonderful host.

Sunaina Suneja, known as Dimple, in her textile gallery.

Sunaina Suneja, known as Dimple, in her textile gallery.

Dimple travels the world to show her beautiful textiles, and is noted for her knowledge and use of Khadi cloth and indigo.

Hauz Khas green space surrounded by city

Hauz Khas green space surrounded by city

This is much more than a boutique, gallery shopping destination. It is a 13th century mosque and school in the Indo-Islamic architecture, reminiscent of what I saw in Morocco and at the Alhambra in southern Spain.

The madrasa, school of Islamic learning

Madrasa school of learning, wells and temple

It is from the Mogul invasion of India and offers a park-like oasis in the middle of a city filled with honking cars, dust and a sea of people.

Portrait of Nidhi Khurana at the monument

Portrait of Nidhi Khurana at the monument

Yellow parakeets fly through the keyhole openings of the building. Young couples, groups of friends, families picnic on the grounds. Small gangs of young men huddle in corners to take a smoke. Friends stroll hand-in-hand. There are plenty of places for children to climb, too.

Friends Aditi and Nidhi at Haus Khaz monument.

Friends Aditi and Nidhi at Hauz Khas monument.

I’m grateful that we had this day together and we ended it with a tea respite at one of the local eateries.

Stone carved detail, Hauz Khas Village

Stone carved detail, Hauz Khas Village

Norma Schafer at the monument

Norma Schafer at the monument wearing Oaxaca Amuzgo coat

 

Carrying firewood through Hauz Khas Village

Carrying firewood through Hauz Khas Village

The caste system is legally banned but exists as it does in all countries, based on birth, economic and social status, inability for upward movement. Often it is based on skin color and religion. We are not impervious to it in the United States of America, either.

Water dumplings, hollow and infused with sugar water. None for me.

Water dumplings, hollow and infused with sugar water. None for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Responses to India Journal: Day One with Nidhi Khurana in New Delhi

  1. Oh, Norma! What beautiful cloth! In all the many times I’ve been in India I may not have seen so many gorgeous fabrics…for sure not in one place! Enjoy!

    • Hi, Hettie, this is such an overstimulating and amazing experience, thanks to my friends Nidhi and Aditya. They both put aside their work to show me around and feed me! I’ve become a pickle lover! I’m going back today to visit Nature Bazaar and a private textile museum, and will write more about that tomorrow. The car honking, traffic and dust compete for what is most oppressive here. I’m finding the wandering cows something of a curiosity. So far have walked no where. Besos, Norma

  2. Loving every word, Norma, and the photos, too! Nidhi looks great!
    Hauz Khas Village was one of the places I wanted to visit in Delhi but didn’t get there. So glad you did. Just think – all those textiles & it’s only your first full day!! Happy travels!

    • Thanks, Suzanne, I’m definitely trying to restrain myself. The textile beauty is overwhelming, with each region offering a different pattern and way of making cloth. The place is rich and exhausting! As you know so well.

  3. Loving watching you in India. Such rich experiences already – and you have just begun. I will fly next Sunday in Delhi to set up the show and pray to the 700 million Indian deities that all will stay stable at home. Will let you know my number when I can – just need to test that my Indian sims still work as the government has a habit of changing mobile systems due to security reason s- as if this aging lady is any kind of threat except to herself!
    Besos

    • This Sunday, day after tomorrow, the 20th? I am excited to see you, if that is the case. We go to Agra on Monday and Tuesday, 21-22. Have Wednesday and Thursday open. Leave for Ahmedabad on the 25th. That’s what they told me at immigration — I didn’t need to give my fingerprints! No threat to anyone but self! Travel easy. We are in Saket.

  4. Fascinating Norma. I know you are in textile heaven. Hope the rupee situation settles down soon. Luckily you have support there and some places take plastic. I am in Ajijic, Jalisco right now. Hardly any credit card options. Cash only. The peso dropped in value on Saturday and the ATM’s ran out of money by the afternoon in many places. Finally found an ATM inside a farmacia. Wish I could send you some rupees!

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