“Chaasmi is actually a Sanskrit word which means as I am. What I create under this revivalist brand is a reflection of all that I am. A coming together of all my collective memory of being born a Rajput woman into a Talluqedar family in the state of Awadh,” shares the soft spoken Nandiniy Singh who recently presented her collection at a Palace Karkhana pop up in Delhi’s Chanakya Mall.
Sarees in soft georgettes, crisp organzas, flowing chiffons and rich crepe de chines flew off her rack. Each one telling a story, a tale of endearment. With iconography of avadhi flora and flora emerging in fine tapestry style in many of them, her sairs personify the Parsi gara style. While many others celebrate the indigenous embroideries of Lucknow: Mokaish, naqashi-kantha, Chikankari, tepchi etc. For Nandiniy they are simply an imagery born out of the feisty women she grew up with.
Nandiniy was the daughter of the Talleqdar of Gaura Raj in Rae Barreily. Her mother came from Bengal and brought with her the culture of the Thakur Baadis and the rich literature of Rabindranath Tagore. Nandiniy grew up initiated into both these culturally powerful worlds of Avadh and Bengal.
Her home, a resplendent mansion, the villagers called peeli kothi was always full of action: “Early memories of my wonder years, would be a leaf out of a Bollywood mega-movie, where every day was one large celebration, triggered by the ‘love for life’ that each one espoused and lived it to the hilt. If ‘Big Indian Joint Family’ needed a definition, this was it!”
“The women folk, who weren’t really encouraged to step out, used every day as an expression of themselves. The ‘make-up’ was mostly nude but the clothes sure were a voice deep inside of them. My Mother, Aunt’s, Grand-Aunt’s wore their flowing floral Chiffon’s and Organza’s with aplomb. The pearls played their role and the occasional sunglasses just made pretty pictures, prettier!”
Sent to Lucknow and educated in the arts, Nandiniy married early into a family of successful Lawyers. She smiles, “While I lost most of the arguments, I won a whole lot of hearts.” The next two decades were spent bringing up two children, both qualified Lawyers today. “Guess who is winning the arguments now: The kids!”
The Singhs travel extensively, “From Rome to Russia, we visited a new country every summer and I was inspired by the art I witnessed at their museums, their beauty etched in my mind forever. “ As a source of inspiration, Nandiniy also celebrates are all things natural, the flora & fauna which today find their way into her embroideries.”
My maternal, Bengali gene had me pick up the paint brush early but more as a hobby. With time on my side once again, there was always this side of me that wanted to give back, wanted to express, wanted to connect, wanted to explore! Sanskrit drew me to Kalidasa’s poems which were brimming with sensuous portrayals of women, amorous longing’s, blissful unions that kept constantly painting a new picture in my mind and inspired me to keep creating something new each and every time I read them.”
Bird motifs too find great expression in her clothes. “The identity of a ‘Crane in Flight’, suggests free spiritedness and the spreading of wings, as one soars high, much like the women we want to allure to our collection. My purpose is to create unique masterpieces which will make women feel their inner strength as they embrace their feminine best, unapologetically.”