Monthly Archives: September 2014

Lunkaransar, the cotton county


I find no other fabric as comfortable and durable as pure cotton, though it is a tough task to find the real thing among hoards of imposters. Many shopkeepers and fabric sellers would try to convince you that cotton-mix is same as pure cotton, and it is easy to get fooled by them. I learned identifying cotton fabrics from my mother, whose one look and touch was  all that was required to pass the judgement. She later took to another way — burning loose threads at the end of the fabric and determining whether it was cotton or synthetic based on what the ashes looked like. I am yet to come to that stage. 🙂

Many regions of India are known for its cotton weavers and high quality cotton made by them, and I was thrilled to be able to visit one such place.

On a recent trip to Bikaner in Rajasthan, I was told that a place called Lunkaransar, about an hour away on National Highway 15, supplys to some of my favourite clothing brands like FabIndia. So it wasn’t long before my husband and I were on our way to Lunkaransar.

A bit of research on the internet told me that weavers in Lunkaransar are promoted by Umrul and Vasundhara Grahmothan Samiti and it has been decades since weaving has become a source of additional income in this draught-hit area.

Cotton yardage I picked up form Lunkaransar.
Cotton yardage I picked up form Lunkaransar.

So on National Highway 15, at the end of the salt lake and about 2 kms short of the Railway station, they have a tiny shop in front of a petrol pump and sell handmade cotton fabric, garments and embroidaried bags made by weavers of Lunkaransar. I saw the cotton yardage which they sell there which is of top quality (I can totally visualise them as kurtas in FabIndia or Anokhi) and was available for Rs120 per metre.

I bought a lot of stuff and my total bill was just Rs 1000 (me happy, husband super happy). I felt very good that weavers of this town would get a majority of what I spent today, especially when they really don’t get a fair price when their products are bought by multinational companies.

Two days later, Dastkar’s Facebook page had a piece of news about Lunkaransar’s weavers attending an entrepreneur’s workshop which taught them essential business skills. That is indeed a great step.

They could start with advertising about their Lunkaransar outlet in a better way — no need to spend a lot of money on it as all they would need to o is make a visually appealing Facebook page. They should choose a catchy name first as there is a lot of confusion among the tourists and outstation customers about this… is it Urmul or is it Vasundhara Gramhmothan Samiti? Tags on readymade garments say Urmul, but the sign board of their outlet says the latter in bold letters.

Also, they need to go beyond simply making kurtas and tops. Experimenting with other designs might bring out amazing results, like palazzo pants, skirts, light jackets or even long designer dresses with some fancy embroidery. So there, that’s all a user like me can think of at the moment. I leave the rest to professionals.

Ruskin Bond, the only reason why I love Mussoorie

We had his stories in our English textbooks in school, we have seen his stories being made into movies (Saat Khoon Maaf) and we every now and then, we see a new book written by him being released. Ruskin Bond, the legendary author who is loved by children (and grownups too :)) for his simple and heart-warming books, lives in the most crowded hill station Mussoorie.

Ruskin Bond
Ruskin Bond

Visiting any place which has been maligned by commercialisation and is always crowded with tourists is not something I like doing. But Mussoorie is different, simply because this adorable old man lives here. Every Saturday he patiently signs books and poses for photographs with many avid followers at the Cambridge Book Depot on Mall Road.

I went there twice, once with my sister and nephew, and another time with my friend (who visited me in Dehradun just so that she can meet Mr Bond). That time, the store was crowded and I could barely get my copy of Maharani signed by him without falling on the stacks of books there.

I asked him whether he spends a lot of time with children to get inspiration to write books for them? “Being around children is the biggest distraction,” the Anglo-Indian writer said with a twinkle in his eye. “It is difficult to write two words when they are running around and making a lot of noise. So no, I try to stay away from them.”

Ruskin Bond ‘bonding’ with his fans at the bookstore in Mussoorie

And the next time I met him, I wanted to know if he was reading any book at the moment. He seemed a little taken aback, “Reading…. or writing?” the 80-year-old author wanted to clarify. I said reading.

“Oh nothing at the moment. Last week I was reading the biography of Somerset Maugham. I like his books a lot, but after reading his biography, I don’t like this fellow anymore,” he added with a chuckle.

There were so many things I wanted to talk to him about, just wanted to sit there and chit-chat. But I don’t think famous authors have so much time to entertain such fantasies. So until next time then…

If you want to meet Ruskin Bond, drop by on any Saturday between 3pm and 5pm at the Cambridge Book Depot on Mall road. Nearest landmarks are Kalsang restaurant and Nirula’s Fast Food. If you want to check with the bookstore if Mr Bond is in town, then call up on 0135- 2632224 or  9837258801 and owner of the bookstore would happily let you know about Mr Bond’s availability that week.