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The Twist of the Humble Towel or the Gamcha

Growing up years, when my friends visited my home and in the backyard, my mother’s red check gamcha would billow in the Delhi summer dry winds to dry. I was ashamed of that absolute frugal piece of cloth and tried covering it with my dupatta or another sari drying there, so that no one would know […]

August 17, 2018

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The Twist of the Humble Towel or the Gamcha

Growing up years, when my friends visited my home and in the backyard, my mother’s red check gamcha would billow in the Delhi summer dry winds to dry. I was ashamed of that absolute frugal piece of cloth and tried covering it with my dupatta or another sari drying there, so that no one would know the gamcha presence in our home. Ma refused to use the other stuff and explained to me that this fabric soaked the water from her long tresses much better than what any other towel could.

As I traveled into the northeast and in Assam saw the white and red embroidered gamcha. I just fell into love with the sheer finesse of the white fabric with beautiful motifs hand embroidered into the fabric. I wouldn’t dare bring that back as a gift for my friends in Delhi.

Maybe they wouldn’t understand what it is to weave that craft into your everyday habits.

As I grew older and out of the Turkish towel fetish. I understood that to soak my long hair after my bath would be this non-pretentious gamcha.

Last year during my annual visit to Calcutta into one of the lanes where you pass the Misti shop that sells Bengali sweets is a building that has the traditional Bengali rangoli at its entrance. As I navigate my way up the stairs I find myself in the studio of Shoma Badoni and her collection of absolute delights with the gamcha.

The gamcha till now was the one-dimensional product that only bathrooms had. Here was a collection of dhoti pants, shrugs, saris and skirts and hair bands and scrunchies with the gamcha fabric.

It was mind-boggling to know what you could do with that check fabric.

There were monotones of red with darker red and there were small checks to bigger checks. All were done aesthetically keeping the gamcha fabric as the protagonist in this creative conquest,

I was treated to the Bengali hospitality of good tea and savory while I preened and propped against the chair to catch my reflection in her mirror.

She told me how this was a dying weave and it bleeds to see this everyday boring piece of fabric just languishing and among few more designers in Calcutta, she is trying to uplift the weave and art of gamcha making.

Gamcha fabric clothing has been paving its way into the international circuit of fashionable clothing.

Suddenly I am treating the gamcha with more than what it received from me before.

Closer home I tell Ma that she should try making a blouse with that fabric and she hasn’t shot down the idea.

It may not be possible to simultaneously use this as a formal dressing up. But days the sun is shining less bright and your mood is dapper and daring, wear the gamcha over your tee or your halter or denim. Mix the rebellious and restrained with the checks to keep you in check with the shifting sands and the shifting sunshine in the heart of your creative best.

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