Monday, 24 August 2009

Day 93-Rolla n Ro

After weeks of preparation and hard work, the opening day of "Rolla n Ro (originals only)" has finally arrived. And arrive it did, with much aplomb.

As the auspicious hour strikes, so did the founders of the most glamorous store at Chandni Chowk and here they are striking an all too familiar pose. Ro, beautiful and serene in her henna and red rubied veil next to the dashing Rolla with his tabla drums and of course, that elaborate turban.

The other dancers too, take their place on the stage, frozen in their starting pose before the tabla begins.

If you look to the left of the stage, you'll see Sumaiya in a flowy orange sari and matching veil, her famous mehndi-ed hand around her man's neck. Look closely and you may be able to decipher his name in her intricately drawn palms.

And even the resident mystic has taken her place, shielded by a panel of delicately embroidered tapestries and surrounded by the various heirloom pieces from Rosanna. She will tell your good fortune for 500 rupees and expects, if her predictions come true, a generous tip. They often do, with the guidance from Ganesh in his lotus position on OM's table and her able assistant, Sissy, peeping through Sans! copy-bag. I guess now we know what Ro meant when she said she knew exactly what that bag is good for.

And seeing everyone in their positions, Rolla expertly started his drums and the energetic music begins:

WAIT!!! There's someone else expected here. Ahh, here he is, hurrying into the stall and being led to the VIP seat, looking very pleased as he settles down.

As handsome as the devil, the girls' hearts skip many beats at the sight of Jai. Sumaiya, standing at an awkward corner, won't stop stealing sideward glances at this God's gift to women.

With a nod from Ro, Rolla once again started on his tabla and this time, the burst of music really begins (note to audience: you may wish to read the rest of the post with the music on. It may transport you to where it's all happening but don't bother watching this video after the 5th clip):

Thanks to the false start, a crowd was drawn in even before the VIP arrives.

And before they can sing "Jai" Ho (in honour of their VIP), dancing in the crowd has started.

The lone girl in the ribbon of orange veil with no partner can't help swaying to Rolla's drums and you can see she risks spilling and dropping her jug of goat's milk,kindly supplied by Sylvia.

A mother laden with a baby and 2 pails of wood and charcoal has to stop too as her baby gurgles in delight and wriggles to the beat.

So beautiful and elegant, you wonder about her fate..She is obviously poor and yet carries herself like a princess. Although her veil is plain cotton with a mere slice of ribbon at the edge bought at the S$2 store, she wears it like a new bride.

And no wonder the crowd lets her through so she can stand right in front at the left corner , enjoying a 1st class view. A precious moment for her as she escapes briefly from her laden life.

A group of palace servant girls, upon hearing the music from the water point, quicken their steps as their brass pots filled to the brim sit firmly on their heads.

It's just round the corner, they whisper excitedly to each other and one by one they take their place at the far right hand corner. A pretty sight as you watch them, despite their work cloth made of fabric from S$2 store and SuZ's stash. The rings of cloth holding their pots can sometime be used to make holders for handbags.

The last to arrive are the students cycling as fast as their bicycles will permit with heavy loads of their girl friend's books in pink basket (ebay junk to some)

or her shabby satchel and more text books, (more ebay junk)

and with their girls riding pillion, it leaves them little alternative but to stand right at the back, craning their necks so they can see while their female friends grumble at their lack of speed.

Only 1 couple seem oblivious to the celebration, incredulously occupied with the Royal Fan.

Standing behind the stage, they stare at the ridiculous size of the peacock feather on the fan. Comparing it with their albino baby peahen, they wish they have a giant one instead.

Before we get too carried away with the celebrations, we mustn't forget "Rolla n Ro (originals only)" as the whole purpose for the song and dance is to advertise their wares.

For a start, we have the tapestries which sometime can be found at giant stationery store under the section "bookmarks".

Then we have plates of powder paint fronting the stall, Many have mistaken them for incense cones from Bangkok sitting on Thai plates. Known as gulal in India, the powder paint are used to celebrate the Festival of Colours or Holi. Made from herbs and flowers, our Banjaran girls have prepared them way in advance of the March holiday.

Our men are not idle either for they have carved wooden toys which will eventually find their way to a bead shop in Chinatown, Singapore

while their womenfolk sew the cloth ones which will be exported to Bangkok

The lovely cushions take centre stage while

heritage Indian painted toys on "6 in 1" and traditional drums flank the right.

Alas, the song ends but the magic of the music lingers and spread, making the neighbouring flower stall very happy.

Look, Belle! A miracle! The topiaries have bore fruits!

Legend has it that the sounds of Rolla n Ro not only lives on but also spawns the famous genre of music known as Rock n Roll. The stall too will set the stage for not only bollywood movies but their western counterparts, most notably "Moulin Rouge".

I think our gypsies are going to be all right. And when they are, they will have a bigger signboard. Maybe then the words "originals only" now hanging precariously below "Rolla n Ro"will finally be legible.

For you, Rosanna, a Bon Voyage present. And to my little sister, Shir, who is 41 years old today.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Day 88 Pt 5 & Day 90- Mehndi

The Big Day is drawing near and preparations are near complete. There is only 1 thing left to do. Someone started grounding the fresh henna leaves which were picked and dried the day before and another extracted juice from a basket of limes. Drops of oils from tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender were then added to the mixture so that the paste will stain better.

12 hours later and the paste is carefully spooned into a cone shaped paper and applied with utmost artistry.

An art form originating from ancient India, mehndi is typically applied to brides, even bridegrooms in certain parts of India, before the wedding ceremony. In very sophisticated patterns, the bride often has her groom's name painted into the design and as the henna binds into the bride's skin, her man is symbolically and similarly bound or bonded.

Mehndi is also applied during festivals, 7th month of pregnancy, Deepavali or Diwali and any other occasions like the grand opening of a business with big ceremonial celebration.

Natural henna only produces reddish brown mehndi. Our girls know better than to try "black henna" which is quite the rage at the palace now as "black is the new reddish brown". Many harem girls have met their maker after using this "black henna" because it contains PPD (p-Phenylenediamine nicknamed "permanent pain or death"). A most unfortunate girl even lost her feet, thanks to her need to be hip (although that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. For she regained her freedom after being banished from the harem, met the man of her dreams and was frequently spotted at Tallulah's).

The Prophet Muhammed dyed his beard red using henna and his daughter, adorned her hands in mehndi. The use of henna and mehndi by the Prophet insured its place in history.

200 years later when women are too busy to wait for henna paste to set, one can purchase a nice pack of henna transfers for S$2 at any Daiso store. To apply, you peel away the pattern, put it where you want it, wet it with a tissue and then gingerly remove the paper leaving the design on the palm or the back of your hand or wherever you fancy.

Like around your belly button, where half a blossom peeps through and subtle tendrils creeps sensually round to your back.

OR at the side of a slim waist, a bold full bloom, unabashed and proud , so loud no one can miss it.

And finally the rose, the emblematic tattoo for all women who find no need to hide their sensuality or fear telling the world "I am Passion, My Love is Pure".

And if you like what you see, and must have one of these, be sure to visit Rolla and Ro, (originals only), Chandni Chowk, Sunday to Thursday. Price starts at 50 gold bars per hour (for trainee artist) or 200 gold bars per hour (for master Sumaiya Mehreen, see hand-drawn sample below or her blog )

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Day 92-Indian Throw Cushions

In India, where furniture was not introduced until after the 16th century and even tables and chairs were regarded as Western and untraditional, an important furnishing must surely be the floor cushion.

Even in decor books or movies on great Maharajah's palaces, I often see vast sitting rooms of beautifully tiled walls and intricately carved columns standing on floors that appear to be covered in miles and miles of the most luxurious carpets with nary a piece of furniture. But always, there are pillows, bolsters, floor cushions.For even the Kings and the Queens sit on the floor.

And thus these floor cushions were made using my most precious material, so that they be fit for the most delicate of bottoms.

The most exquisite jacquard ribbons I have ever seen, I found them in a quaint little shop on a side narrow lane in Delhi, India.

For those of you who do not feel like clicking through to Day 21-22, this is what I had written about the shop:

"I shall not tell you how badly I was fleeced at the lace shop but no, no, no regrets for it is the most incredible tiny 3 level lace shop I have ever seen. Can you imagine 3 levels of lifesized room boxes filled with nothing but ribbons, laces and tassels of all shapes and sizes and every colour ever conceived or not? Yes, I swear I met a few new colours at the shop!"

It was a good thing I only had 10 minutes at the shop or I would have been completely broke.

With this range of ribbons, I already knew they were going to be fashioned into floor cushions because of the designs. Each "mandala" is a 1 3/8" square and there are 2 alternating patterns and 4 combinations of colours. So each ribbon can make 2 different cushions with 2 different sides.

I cut 2 "mandalas" for each cushion and used glue instead of threads. This ensures that the integrity of the designs remains with no unsightly sewing.

I then stuffed the cushion with dried shells from bean sprouts before the last side was glued.

The eventual cushion measures 2" by 1 5/8" (because of borders). I believe they are the perfect scale for the smaller life sized throw cushions.

I am going back to India, even if it is just to buy more ribbons.
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