The 74th death.
[Text by Himanshu Verma; photo by Mehar Jyrwa]
Lurking like a cheeky phantom in the country’s art and fashion world, he was the Saree Man of India. Himanshu Verma’s mad eclectic work stood at the cusp of traditional aesthetics and contemporary creativity.
That said, Mr Verma was always unsure about what exactly he ought to do – curate, create or simply be an artistic parasite. As a result, he ended up doing a lot, and some of those achievements turned out to be moderately significant – like re-appropriating the saree as a male garment. He also created India’s first saree museum.
In the initial years of his saree-wearing career Mr Verma was the only man in Delhi spotting the wondrous drape, much to the delight of the capital’s saree lovers. Soon he inspired a new cult community of saree wearers that later formed the polemic outfit, the JAI SAREE clan.
Mr Verma will, however, be principally remembered for pioneering a new style of weaving. We are referring to the Indo-Chinese Banarasi that dramatically transformed the country’s textile landscape, though many sophisticates might dismiss the development as just another vulgar instance of aesthetics gone to the dogs in the new India. Mr Verma, in collaboration with Chinese industrialists and the new forward thinking government in Delhi, was instrumental in according Special Protected and Endangered Heritage status to polyester sarees that were criminally ignored by the elite during the the post-independent years–the Nehruvian craft organisations were only interested in outdated traditional weaves.
Indeed, the rise of the polyester saree represented a new democratic idea. By snubbing the feudal preference for the natural and hand-made over the industrial and synthetic, the polyester saree became the language of the common man (and also of women).
Mr Verma will be sorely missed, but we shall always have the polyester.
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