Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by jewellery in all shapes and forms. That’s kind of a contradiction considering that I was quite a tomboy, and would fly kites, and climb the neighbourhood guava trees. I guess, even then stereotypes never worked for me.
Growing up as part of a huge Bengali joint family, there were always plenty of ocassions for celebration. And, celebrations usually meant big gatherings, lots of food and dressing up. I used to watch with awe all the diamonds, rubies, emeralds and heavy gold sets that my grandmoms, mom, aunts and older cousins would deck up in for weddings and special occasions. In that vein, I have three distinct memories of childhood.
The first, during a summer in my mamarbari (mom’s ancestral place) when my grandfather, a doctor, pierced the ears for me and two of my cousins. Looking back, it seems the first prick of the needle was akin to falling in love; it hurt and excited simultaneously. Anyways, sans the drama, that really started off a life-long love affair with earrings.
The second memory goes back to when I was about 6 years, one of my eldest cousins got married. In traditional Bengali weddings, there is a ritual of having a neetkone. Usually, the youngest girl in the family from the bride’s side gets to be the neetkone. A neetkone is a bit like a bridesmaid, though not really. She is like a miniature little bride who sits beside the bride and usually gets to hear how pretty she looks and how the neetbar (the equivalent from the groom’s side) will absolutely fall in love with her. Mostly, it’s just a fun and meaningless ritual and one of many such interesting fillers in long, elaborate traditional Bengali weddings. All I remember though is that for Didi’s biye (bengali for marriage), I was a neetkone and I got to wear a benarasi saree for the first time. My uncle had got it for me. It was blue with silver zari work, and I had a hard time managing it. But I was so excited! My mom actually decked me up in all kinds of jewellery, and I think there will still be an old faded black and white photograph somewhere in the family albums where I’m sitting all decked up in a big throne-like chair, pint-sized but grinning from ear to ear, and feeling supremely happy with the world.
The third very vivid memory I have from my teenage years is cajoling and coaxing my mom to buy me terracotta earrings from the road side stalls near Gariahat, in Calcutta. On my way back and forth from my dance classes I would watch with keen interest artisans and vendors set up stalls selling all kinds of terracotta wares, including jewellery. Terracotta in Bengali refers to burnished clay. I have quite big ears that earned me various sobriquet in school like ‘elephant’, ‘goblin’, etc. I decided to turn all that attention into something worth talking about. By the time I reached the end of my college life, I had graduated to ten earrings to deck those plus sized ears and a nose stud to boot.
Thus started my saga with style and design. Through the years, I designed my clothes, and then jewellery, sometimes, bags and shoes and other accessories. It was something that came naturally and I liked doing it. I have always been guided by a keen eye, and a personal sense of style, over and above what the current fashion trends are.
I remember as a child, if I was lucky, I would get to wear an earring or a bead necklace, as my mom insisted that kids should keep it simple. Growing up, I think I have inherited the same style but with a signature difference. While she is perfectly happy with a pair of diamond earrings and a diamond nose stud, I love to mix stuff up, and go eclectic.
Recently I started designing a bit for friends and immediate family. And, the encouragement that I received from the outcome made me seriously think about turning this passion into something more tangible.
My first shot had to be jewellery, my first love.
I am fairly experimental with my style. I haven’t yet reached a point where I have set boundaries of what I will do and won’t. I just know that for now, I love to work with earthy, natural stuff like uncut and tumbled stones, glass beads, and shells. Silver and brass, as much as gold and platinum really fascinate me. For now, the creativity comes out in fitful bursts, although deep down, I know it’s just waiting to be expressed. When i design, I sometimes have an idea about what i want to do with a certain piece. However, most of the times, i make it up as i go, and the pieces almost shape themselves into being. I can’t quite explain how that happens except to say that I like to create wearable art that’s natural and chic.