BENGALURU: A social conversation about India in foreign countries often involves the country’s ‘spicy’ food, its large population, or the booming IT sector. But there’s so much more to the country, which is why Sowmya Reddy Shamanna, who has been residing in Dreieich, Germany, for the last three decades, wanted to bring to the fore the craft heritage of handwoven fabrics, embroideries and paintings on fabrics. In her book, Tana Bana - The World of Sarees, which was released in the city over the weekend, Shamanna, explores the many weaves in India.
“During the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Gandhi, the Indian consulate in Frankfurt put together some highlights about India. That’s when the idea of a book displaying the craft heritage of India crossed my mind. The consulate appreciated the idea and I decided to go ahead with it,” says the former clinical researcher. In April, the coffee table book will be launched in Frankfurt in German and English, an attempt to also preserve a dying culture of draping sarees.
“The millennials are no longer treated to such visions of beauty. During my growing years in India, I had seen my mother and grandmothers draping sarees. In the generations to follow, it will be almost rare to see that, and I don’t want sarees going the kimono way, where it is only worn for tea ceremonies. It is important that we instil a sense of pride in our youngsters so they see the saree as a sartorial choice of clothing,” says Shamanna, who was born and brought up in Karnataka.
During the process of research and writing of the book, every post on Instagram about any weave or handcrafted saree would light up her eyes. “The saree world was like a revelation to me. Whenever I heard of weaves unknown to me, I would check it out on the internet, research for days, read every possible book about the weave I could get my hands on, and check out the particular weave with my saree sisters. Gradually, over time, I learnt to recognise, identify, and distinguish between details, intricacies and peculiarities of many weaves,” she says.
Once her manuscript was ready, Vijayalaxmi Chhabra, former director-general of Doordarshan (India), shared stories from her wardrobe, evaluated the manuscript and provided her feedback. “The handloom sector is the largest sector of non-farming rural employment in India. This plays an immense role in contribution to the Indian economy. Unless we boost the skills of weavers by buying handwoven sarees, their skills will not come to the public eye,” she says.