Preserving a mother’s legacy

Ro, one of Hubby dear’s dearest friends called up early this morning with the news that she was going “Gara” shopping.


” Hey, I’m going to Naju Daver’s this evening, would you like to come?” I immediately said yes because this was literally an opportunity of a lifetime. Naju Davar is famous for  reviving the  hand embroidered sari or Gara as it is known among the Parsi community that wears them.





The Parsis are Zoroastrians who fled from Persia to escape persecution by the Muslims. They settled down in Gujerat where their boat landed and adopted the ways of the natives while promising to keep to themselves and not propagate their religion. Always willing to adapt and amalgamate, they were the few Indians who didn’t mind associating with the British and became willing partners in business and trade. The Parsis have been a progressive community and have produced luminaries in every field : art, literature, music, medicine, sports, industry and of course business.

Lace & Silk

The Gara is sheer magic –  hand embroidered chamois or shantung silk saris introduced to the Parsi community by seafaring traders to China during the Opium trade in the heydays of the Raj ( early 1800s). Possibly brought home as a peace offering to his wife by a Parsi who got a length of 6 yards of silk especially embroidered, it soon became a status symbol and a MUST in  the wardrobe of every Parsi woman worth her patra nu macchi and  lagan nu custar. And what saris they were ! They were veritable works of art , finely embroidered with satin stitch or chain stitch or French knots, there were birds of paradise, peonies and figures with temples and bridges – each one a priceless piece to be handed down the generations. The work is so fine that you can wear it inside out and you won’t be able to tell the difference!

Luckily the Parsis still wear a sari to their traditional functions and you can still see some dowagers happily swishing their garas  while jiving and rocking away at the Navjote and Wedding receptions. Sadly, garas are few and far between these days as the younger girls are not fond of saris and mothers have a hard time convincing their girls to even look at one leave alone wear one!

Naju Daver was fortunate to have her daughter Farzeen share her passion. Today, Farzeen comes down to Mumbai from Sydney to keep alive her mother’s legacy –  the business her mother set up all those years ago.
With a renewed interest in all things old and glorious, the gara is available at several shops on/off Lamington Road or made to order by other designers. But these are machine embroidered and are not a patch on the  exquisite, highly coveted and prized  hand embroidered sari  by Naju Davar.

Stepping into the past

I quickly made my way down the C road off Forjett Street to the building at the end. A building which had definitely seen better days had the words ” CROWN MANSION’ spelled out in tile and I went inside a darkened staircase, past a sleepy dog, two flights up a worn wooden staircase to a flat that sported the traditional chalk designs and a name board  announcing NAJU DAVER.

The door was opened by a young girl who turned out to be Farzeen, Naju’s daughter who let me in. From the beaming smile on Ro’s face, I could make out that she had found what she was looking for and after the introductions, sat down to see the saris that very few are privileged to see. 
 

“These saris can take all of 6 months to a year to make,  depending on the density of the work and the complexity of the design”, explained Farzeen as she proudly showed me yard after yard of embroidered drape carefully worked by highly skilled and trained craftsmen.  She showed me the entire range of work :  sequined chiffon with  cutwork borders, crepes and silks worked with zardozi and crystals . I simply couldn’t take my eyes off  a gorgeous cream sari completely embroidered with flowers and leaves and birds of paradise worked in shades of pink and green, all done in millions of delicate French knots. Another masterpiece was a jet black  china cheen  with tiny Chinese figurines and some koras ( handworked borders) in ari work.

Ro had got along her old koras and garas handed down to her. Some of the silver had been oxidized over the years and needed to be re-polished before putting on a new fabric. Some saris had begun to crumble and Ro wanted to rescue the border and make another one. It was fascinating to see these old laces and borders, and discuss which colour and fabric and would best set it off .

As the fish in the tank stared at us, we were transported back to Victorian days when garas were at their prime. In today’s day and age when most girls repair hems with staple pins and replace a broken hook with an office pin,  the Gara like the sari and traditional skills like embroidery and needle work are a fast dying craft left in the memory of old aunts and grandmas. 


It will take more than just passion to keep alive this tradition – “You have to wear and enjoy the Gara” says Farzeen , ” and pass it on to your daughter or daughter in law! “


I can’t wait for December to see Ro jiving away in her garas during the festivities of her son’s wedding, under the fairly lights at the Jeejeebhoy Agiary.

Naju Daver Saris are available only on request and shown by prior appointment so ensure that you  call in advance. And for those of you who don’t want to follow the link, you can call 9821338722 or 23862640 or email at najudaver@hotmail.com.

Be warned : These saris are irresistible so be prepared to fall in love and take away a precious Gara. Needless to say, take along a fat pocketbook as well!

Unishta

A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!

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