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Home > 2021 > Refugee Crisis; Pierre Cardin passes on | Humra Quraishi

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 3, New Delhi, January 2, 2021

Refugee Crisis; Pierre Cardin passes on | Humra Quraishi

Saturday 2 January 2021, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

December 30, 2020

Humra Quraishi

I have never believed in ushering in the new- year on a frilly note. Somehow find it silly to go cooing ‘happy new year’ when there’s that dearth of happiness all around. And as this year comes to a close with painful cries from varying locales, there is an absolute ‘no’ from my end to come up with that formality-dripping one-liner: happy new year!
Like every new year start, I plan to usher in this new year, sitting somewhat forlorn with hot water bottles clutched tight in my hands , reciting these lines of Faiz Ahmad Faiz : “Somewhere near the pillow /,the night’s fading away/ Or is it the candle melting ? /Something is burning within me –/ Is that your memory, or my life seeking to depart .”

Call me outdated or backward or one of those boring introverts but I refuse to give in to facades. With that in the background or foreground, I am in no mood to move away from the ground realities.

Tell me, what’s so astonishingly positive holding out for us in the upcoming year? It could get bleaker on the virus- pollution- distress fronts. With financial lows spreading out, darker and murkier times lie ahead .And even if one were to forcibly fit oneself in the glass- half - full category, I still manage to see vacancy holding out, on not just on our faces but writ large in our eyes and hovering along our fields and hutments, lanes and alleys . An eerie build-up, forewarning of the trying times in the coming year. Tell me in such a scenario how can one tickle oneself to laugh and giggle or to go about hugging 2021 with contrived concoctions?

And please don’t come up with silly new- year resolutions of shedding those extras kilos along with well - tucked inhibitions. If at all you are in that resolution flaunting mood then do shed that extra layer of that thick hide on you. Throw it off .Then see the realities of the day, not just here in our country, but also out there on the high seas.
In our country, sheer tyranny heaped on our people by the sarkari dictates of the day. One can well imagine what the farmers are going through, sitting on the Delhi borders in these freezing temperatures. Perhaps, its their sheer grit cum will power that’s keeping them going …withstanding the zulm of the rulers of the day. And out there, in our inner and outer lanes, married couples are getting torn apart by the fascist ‘love jihad’ policies of the rulers of the day.

And last evening an absolutely pathetic sight caught attention. Television shots of boats carrying hundreds of the hapless Rohingya refugees, moved from one shore of Bangladesh to the other. Little cattle men and women and children moved from here to there.

Even in our country, the condition of the Rohingya refugees is pathetic. The Rohingya refugees who managed to flee from the daily rounds of torture in Myanmar but are now surviving in our capital city, New Delhi, in the harshest possible conditions , with only a handful of organizations reaching out to them. Ironical it is, though half of New Delhi’s population had been refugees in the late 1940s, yet there is such indifference to the plight of these refugees in our midst.

Also, aren’t all of us refugees? Isn’t seeking refuge a state of the mind? So many times don’t we close our eyes and mentally transport ourselves, from a difficult situation towards a peaceful one, as though finding ways and means to survive. How many of us keep seeking refuge from hurt and deceit and pain …running away from horribly complicated characters ? Those who are not so fortunate to run away , take some sort of a temporary refuge in the folds of their dupatta or shawl or chaddar and cry out. At least that piece of cloth gives them that cushioning!

As I’m keying in, I sit wondering of those bygones when men and women wandered about, rather too freely , from here to there without complicated procedures. No, they were not kept at bay and nor labelled ‘refugees’ and nor ‘suspects’. Instead, accepted and made to feel comfortable. A complete contrast to today ’s so called developed times when there lurks an air of suspicion and distrust. More so, as we spot a ‘foreigner’ around, a hapless homeless someone seeking refuge.

The coming year will only complicate cum compound the refugee crisis the world over, as more and more Right -wing governments are hardening their stand and giving in to the harsh political dictates .Even the big - bodied United Nations has not been able to give the required cushioning to hundreds of refugees in deep distress, desperately looking for refuge ,just about somewhere or anywhere! What’s their future and where do they go, running from one country to the next ? How many perish and drown whilst trying to flee?

Television shots of refugees crossing borders is enough to jolt nerves .And activists who are reaching out to the Rohingya refugees here in New Delhi detail the absolutely pathetic conditions they are surviving in .Yet we don’t even bother to speak out or reach out; deadened either by our own sorrows or by those inflicted on us by the political treachery that’s on and ongoing. Well , so thick -skinned we have become that we even fail to realize the basic underlying fact: citizens can become refugees overnight because of the political chaos and civil strife . They can be made to flee from their homes towards a nowhere of sorts. At times seeking refuge in their own country, fleeing from one state to the next.

o o

Pierre Cardin passes away at 98!

Just as I was filing this column, came in the news of the passing way of the 98 year old French- Italian designer, Pierre Cardin.

I had met and interviewed him in New Delhi, way back at the start of 1989 , when he had flown down from Paris to design T-shirts for shirts for the Surajkund Crafts Mela and also to hold fashion shows. Mind you, all this was free for cost…Nah , he didn’t charge, for those designer shirts nor for the fashion shows. To the ‘why’ he had told me ,during the course of that interview held at the Ashoka Hotel’s presidential suite where he was put up, “Simply because I’m a friend of India, its government and people. Its tiring for me to travel and follow this hectic schedule but I’m doing so for the sake of friendship and goodwill. I’d first come here in 1965. In fact, I am the first foreign designer to buy Indian fabric and introduce them to the West.”

And when I’d asked him which particular Indian fabric fascinates him the most, this is what he had to say, “ The Khadi .In fact, your textiles, the silks and cottons, are beautiful. Silk is more important and valuable than gold. I use a lot of Khadi in the making of garments…My latest range of Khadi T- shirts are loose and comfortable, keeping in mind the proportions of the body. The motto on it is symbolizes a man and a woman who create a new life.”

Whilst designing what are your priorities and your target group?

“My basic aim is to make the dress comfortable, and also more wearable for the working woman. Even I work hard, 18 – 20 hours a day, so I go in for comfortable clothes. Every woman has the right to be fashionable and should have a desire to buy and that desire to buy has to be created. Fashion is very, very important. Because if there is no fashion, then there is no business and if there is no business then factories will close down, which will mean unemployment for thousands …Over the last few decades there has been a definite change in the fashion world, in the sense that in the fifties or say in the sixties only the rich had the right to be fashionable. I design for every single women. For the masses.”

And as the interview progressed I’d asked him to comment on several factors. He answered all the queries; speaking in fluent English, though heavily accented.
Here are the excerpts from my that detailed interview with him.

Besides being good, Indian fabrics are cheap as compared to fabrics from other countries. Do you take advantage of this fact?

“No, no. The Indian fabric is no longer cheap by the time it reaches us, with heavy customs and air freight charges that we have to pay. I buy it because it is good.”
But doesn’t it sadden you that we Indians still do not realize the value of our textiles and grab the synthetics?

“This is no longer true. I am seeing a definite trend towards the use of silk and cotton. Of course, in the West synthetics are no longer fashionable.”

Whilst designing what are your priorities and your target group?

“My basic aim is to make the dress comfortable, and also more wearable for the working woman. Even I work hard, 18 – 20 hours a day, so I go in for comfortable clothes. ..Everyone has the right to be fashionable and should have a desire to buy; mind you, that desire to buy has to be created. Fashion is very , very important. Because if there is no fashion, then there is no business and if there is no business then factories will close down, which will mean unemployment for thousands …Over the last few decades there has been a definite change in the fashion world, in the sense in the fifties or say in the sixties only the rich had the right to be fashionable. I design for the masses.”

If you are designing for every single individual then how do you retain that exclusiveness attached to your designer collection ?

“The exclusiveness comes from the fact that I keep changing the designs. I design over 250 new garments every season. You cannot have the same style , clothes. They have to be different like moods, season times etc.”

Which part of the body do you highlight whilst designing?

“Nothing in particular. At times I make long and loose dress, at times short.
It all depends …for this coming spring season we are in for long dresses with a lot of material in greens, blacks and browns.”

Which type of women attract you?

“Every woman can be fascinating. I feel beauty is not enough. There has to be personality. And most important for a woman is to be herself, to respect herself.”

But is your concept of an ideal woman?

“ I change …At times a tall woman could fascinate me, attract me. Or at other times a short lady could be charming. But I feel in fashion the age factor is very important.”

What type of women put you off?

“Difficult to answer this. I dress every woman. But all that I can say is that I don’t like women who look or, say dress ridiculously. If you have fat legs then why wear a short skirt. It is not necessary to wear particular clothes if they don’t suit you. Wear simple instead of wearing loud stuff and looking stupid.”

Do your women friends always wear outfits designed by you ?

“No , they wear mine plus from other houses. It is like eating in a restaurant. You are faithful to one but you still frequent the other restaurants.”

You have been visiting India right from 1965. Have you noticed any difference in the fashion scene here?

“A lot. In 1965, I saw girls in churidars, but now I’m seeing a number of girls wearing pants. Though for the evening parties, its still the sari which is good because it gives a sense of your country.”

How do you find sari as a dress?

“It is not a dress. It is a material …But I really feel hurt when I have to cut it to make dresses.”

Any particular Indian dress inspired you?

“I’m totally original and let me tell you that originality is better than copying. All my designs are conceived in my head.”

In India only the rich have the privilege of following fashions but the other socio- economic groups cannot do so. How can we break this monopoly?
“ I design for the masses , the common person…But this story doesn’t hold true only in the Indian context but even in Europe. In the West the elite women of big towns can follow the changing fashions but the women in the countryside buy new fashionable garments only once in two or three years or maybe not even then .”

Do the changing values, from good to bad, affect one’s personality vis-a -vis fashion, that is hardened women in feminine outfits?

“Not really. In fact, you must do what you want to do .Be yourself. If you wan to be nude, be nude. Don’t bother what others say.”

How important is the value of your name, your label in the business world?

“Name or brand is very, very important, whether it is cigarettes, food , clothes or anything. You buy your favourite brand. But remember my name was not built in a day but in 40 years.”

You have been called a workaholic. How do you cope with the tensions and pressures?

“Yes, I work for hours; say 18 to 20 hours but my work is also my biggest relaxation.”

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