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Our Self-Written Obituaries – Laila Tyabji, Tommy Hilfiger outlet in Gurgaon

Laila Tyabji, Tommy Hilfiger outlet in Gurgaon

The 117th death.

[By Laila Tyabji]

The unidentified body found in the Tommy Hilfiger outlet at the Ambience Mall in Gurgaon has now been identified as 68 year old Laila Tyabji, Founder and Chairperson of Dastkar.

The body, found in the fitting room by one of the maintenance staff late evening, carried no ID. Since Ms Tyabji was known as a craft revivalist who often criticized the enthusiastic adoption by India’s Gen Next of branded Mall culture, and mocked “T Shirts with Logos on their bosoms’ and “spongy Baked Alaska-like” Reeboks and Nikes, the discovery of her body in the Hilfiger store was unexpected. Especially so, as the noted sari proponent was unrecognizable in a black mini skirt, Swarovski crystal bustier, fishnet stockings, and bright green Crocs.

Shocked friends recall her once saying that when in her 30s and 40s she wore jeans over the weekend, she felt invisible – “not the craft-y Dastkar lady”. Affectionately reminiscing, they also said that her love for electronic gizmos and her inseparable iPhone were a contradiction to her otherwise handcrafted style, and that she drove a motorbike in earlier years.

Could there have been a secret Jekyll and Hyde side to this revered icon of handlooms?

When Ms Tyabji received the Padma Shri in 2012, she joked that President Pratibha Patel said to her, “You are looking very gracious…” (possibly meaning “graceful?”) and regretted that people tended to notice her clothes rather than her work.

Was her alternate Ambience Mall incarnation a late-life rebellion against this accepted image? The parrot green Crocs certainly suggest so. If so the Fates rejected it. Her family tells us Ms Tyabji will be buried in a beautiful Banarsi.

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