What defines you? What are you like?
It is a difficult question indeed. In the absence of a better word, I would describe myself as a ‘Pandora’s box’ (used in a way slightly more positive). A box stuffed with overdose of emotions (mostly unnecessary), endless conversations (often meaningless and mostly inappropriate), bottles of colours, love for art, fabric, words, music, unending enthusiasm for the things of the past, love for the mundane, wanderlust, Calcutta-postcards, food-lovingness with dollops of sarcasm and blasphemy thrown in here and there.
Tell us something about your childhood and growing up years, college days.
There are two great things about by childhood and growing up years.
One, my mom sent me to an art school even before I was admitted to a proper kindergarten. I am ever thankful for that. I used to cry my lungs, kidneys and intestines out each time I was sent to the nursery school, for which I joined a proper school directly and my toddler days were saved.
Two, my mom never asked me to study. By never I mean “NEVER”. She was so complacent that any stranger would suspect that she was a step mom. I remember that in my Board exam selections, I failed in Chemistry. Needless to say, my mom was summoned for a “Garjen call”. When we left the school campus, any one would expect a thrashing, a verbal one at least. She fed me chicken patty and cake, saying “Are you my daughter? How did you manage 29 out of 100? I could have never crossed 3.”
I remember having scored 92 in Physics-Chemistry in the Boards (yes, sometimes I am cool like that). The same teacher insisted that I took Science for my Class 11-12. I remember how my mom and dad insisted that I take up Arts and I did.
Of the many things I feel grateful to her, these two top the least. The immediate third would be, I could share all my double-meaning jokes all my life with my mom. Without inhibitions, without fear.
Any painful incidents/experiences which made you stronger as a person?
A lot of my strength comes from the various challenges which life poses. But then I have always believed, for the lemons, Life throws at you, pick them up, cut them into halves, squeeze them in Life’s eyes and teach it a lesson.
I was suffering from perhaps the lowest times of my life throughout 2014. Prolonged health issues, mental down-phase, dissatisfaction with the then-job turned me into something I was myself unaware of. In order to take a break from all things ugly happening in my life, I planned a girls’ trip to Shantiniketan with Mom. If that trip was a person, I would marry him. It changed me completely, gave me new hope, encouraged me to do things which I have loved doing but never had the courage. Parama was conceived during that trip. And there was no looking back.
Tell us how your love for the fabrics began.
I am a vehement DIYr since an early age. So crafting came naturally, so did the love for fabric. But I started working with fabric seriously after my Class X Boards. My mom’s colleague and friend, Mita Mashi (an artist and an eternal inspiration) had started giving shape to her brain child in the form of a clothing studio. I would paint t-shirts, sarees, dupattas for her. Rabindranath’s “Shahaj Pathh” motifs, Madhubani, Orissa patachitra were painted on fabric. That was the beginning.
Another remarkable incident was my marriage trousseau. My mom had collected sarees from each and every State of India and given them to me for my wedding. The rendezvous with so many fabrics from different parts of the country turned me into Alice in Wonderland. I took interest, read up whenever I got time about various weaves, art forms etc and one day, the love turned into a lifetime love-project.
Do you operate mostly online? How challenging or easy is it?
Yes, I operate completely online. The easy part is it saves you from running a set up, overhead costs, time commitment etc. I consult at a law firm for 3 days and dedicate the rest of the days to Parama. In a situation like this, online works best. The challenging part is (from what I face) is regular inventory of the products, keeping a track of the orders and see that they are delivered on time. The basis of online sale is trust. One has to be very careful that the product matches exactly with what images you put up on the page. Photographing is also a huge challenge for me since I haven’t taken professional help till now and I am never happy with the standard of images.
Where do you draw your inspirations from?
From everything. And I mean it. If I see something interesting on my trips, I may just recreate it on fabric. Fabric for me is an endless canvas.
The books that I read, movies, songs and poetry, picture post cards, nursery rhymes, artifacts, plants, people, food, animal, transport…anything interesting may just be a theme for my dream. Flowers have played an important source of inspiration. This year, I am creating a series with my favourite flowers.
The city I live in has inspirations lying like pebbles at every corner. You just have to pick them. I have said this many a times before. Calcutta is my biggest inspiration. It is like a huge story book with art thrown in beautiful randomness. The old buildings, the yellow cabs, the hand pulled rickshaws, the boi-para, new market, Park Street…the list goes on. Because it is a laid back city, it offers us time to think, contemplate and create art.
The indigenous art forms of India have a huge role to play too. I am intrigued by them. To begin with, I have started exploring Batik and Kantha, the two pioneer art forms of my State. I want to explore the entire country and bring in art to everyday objects.
Any other interests that we don’t know about
Farhan Akhtar. And that I want to marry him.
How do you want to see yourself in the future?
I want to see myself as someone who followed her heart, did things which made her happy and in the process passed on that happiness to others. For me successful is being happy.
This may sound all flowery and fake, so I must add one thing. I also want to see Parama financially successful. The primary input in any business is the labour of love, but money comes the very second. I want to give Parama a comfortable life so that she grows at her own pace, churns out art and has a long journey. For that, money is important.
Your work, your posts on social media, your career graph all point towards a very smart, confident young woman, who knows her mind….. but behind all that there must be a little girl..Tell me about that girl… What does she like to do. What are her insecurities, what is she afraid of? We all have that little girl inside us, somewhere, don’t we?
I refuse to grow up. My greatest insecurity would be my inability to laugh at meaningless jokes, refusing to trust people easily, strike up a conversation with cab drivers, finding solace in Nahoum’s cakes, Hnada-Bhonda comics and licking up a bowl of that two-minute noodles when no one’s watching. There are certain things I never want to outgrow. These are some of them.
Women are experimenting with their choice of clothes now, we have a great many artists creating for this new breed of divas…. what, advice would you give to the women who are willing to experiment while dressing up….
Break rules. Buy fuchsia trousers, pair that dull blue saree with a shocking orange blouse, wear oversized retro glasses, shun boring jewelry, wear horizontal stripes even if they make you look broader, turn Ma’s old sarees into trousers and dresses, try everything that you (or others) thought would look bad on you.
Your body is your biggest canvas. Let your imagination run wild. Turn it into art.
If you had to pick say three best dressed women in India, who would they be.
Aparna Sen (on screen and off screen),
Deepika Padukone (On screen. She is my eternal girl crush) and
Mamta Sharma Das, a friend and a sister. She is boho chic personified.
If you could go back in time what advice would you give to your 14 year old self?
Pursue arts. That’s the only way to be.
What makes ‘Parama’ different from the other creative houses?
I have been told by many visitors on my page that they haven’t bought a single piece from ‘Parama’ but they keep coming back to the stories, to chat up and have a good time. Strangers have shared stories of their personal losses, victories, stories of their love, pages of their personal diaries, art they have made. Clients have sent chocolates, sarees, jewelry, books and book marks. I have opened my heart out to many and they have played agony aunts to me for days. Mind you, they were all strangers before the page began. I do not know if Parama is different in any way from other creative houses, but these are the little things that make it unique and make me love it a little more with each passing day.
If you could raid one celebrity’s wardrobe and steal her clothes who would that be?
Aparna Sen’s clothes, Kirron Kher’s jewelry.
What makes you smile and what makes you laugh out loud?
I smile a lot. Old chat histories, “Pehla nasha” on car radio, smell of biryani, Sunday mornings, those rare moments when I manage exact change for an auto ride, the feeling called “Durga Pujo”, good milk tea, old photographs, children make me smile instantly.
Conversations with besties always make me laugh out loud. So do FRIENDS, Govinda movies, Sukumar Ray and Shibram Chakraborty. I often laugh at the jokes I crack myself. And I laugh at myself too.
Any message you would like to share for the readers of our blogazine?
When you pursue something, love it enough to last for a lifetime. When you love something enough to last for a lifetime, pursue it with all your might. This is something I have learnt at every step of my toddler venture. Parama is as human as I am. Full of flaws, full of fervour and full of unsure steps. But I treat her like I would treat my own child. I would not give her up for anything on earth. It isn’t easy. Things of the heart aren’t. I make mistakes like I was born to make them. But like I said, if there is one thing I am allowed to take with me to my grave, it would be her.
At the risk of sounding cliched, I will add: follow your heart. If there is one organ that sends the most precious signals it is the heart. Do everything that the heart wants. Brain will follow suit.
To know more about her work follow her Facebook Page: PARAMA
Please Note: This interview has been conducted online via emails by Rhiti Bose for IWI.