It is thanks to Naju Daver that the Parsi literally stopped slashing their beautifully embroidered garas. For as the chiffons, American georgette's and Chantilly laces came into fashion, the Parsi ladies started cutting up their traditional garas and making baby dresses and topees out of them.
Naju Daver noticed in the nick of time that this art of embroidering saris, once a Parsi heirloom, was as good as dead. She began its revival. Naju first tried to repair her grand mother’s old and tattered gara. But as she admits herself, “it wasn’t a grand success. All the same I was determined to make people aware of the fact that this art was a Parsi heritage which deserved to be treasured.”
And so this enterprising lady’s success story began ten years back. Though, rather amusingly, she herself was to be partly blamed for the idea not being a runway hit right from the work go. As she puts it, “Each sari used to take a minimum of six to eight months to be intricately embroidered. So by the time it was completed, I couldn’t bear to part with it until and unless it had a genuine buyer, who would really appreciate its worth. There were so many times I would spot a moneyed customer at the exhibitions of my clothes & quality hide my precious garas because I felt that they wouldn’t suit her or she wouldn’t value it as much.”
Apparently this got the her business-minded sister angry who tried to din some sense into Naju’s head.” My sister used to keep telling me,’ why are you having an exhibition if you can’t part with your best saris? Finally, somebody suggested that I put a ‘sold’ tag on my prized collection and at least let people admire them, if not bye them.”
Gradually the first lady of garas started parting with her best ones (which cost anything from Rs.2, 500 to Rs.40, 000) even if it broke her heart. Now of course Naju is hounded by all lovers of this embroidered art, Parsis and Non – Parsis alike. And occasionally even by high – fashion designers! Like recently a haute-counter designer visited her with an American scribe and couldn’t stop swooping over her collection. Not surprising that he flew back to America with loads of beautifully embroidered pieces.
So now when you see the intricately embroidered stuff on the side of high – fashion Gandhi caps and trousers on the next Vogue,’ you ‘ll know where the original idea came from.
By Farida Balsara.