Two months ago, a phone call changed my views over the creative scene in the country. For a while now I’ve felt there is something a-miss. We have done a lot, in terms of fashion, art, literature, music, food, film and more, but somehow something lacks. Conviction, perhaps? The passion is overcome by commercials I feel. So when Swapan Seth, (a man I highly respect and look up to, who also happens to have an extremely acquired taste, and a fine eye for discovering talent) called me and said I had to be at The India Story, all I said was yes.
Powering up my good old friend Google, I found out what The India Story was about, and honestly was a little heartbroken that I had missed their first edition. The India Story is not an exhibition, it’s a festival, that brings the best of the country together in a land which hasn’t been hit by the commercials yet. The serene background of Kolkatta with its hustle and bustle so pure, plays the perfect backdrop and host to the biggest culmination of arts from around the nation.
I was honoured to be invited to be a part of TIS. A days trip to the city of joy, gave me the first taste of what The India Story is about at the preview of its second edition. And to me it’s about celebrating the diversity and the talent our nation has to offer, and to give a platform to all. What’s extremely exciting this season is the introduction of The India Story Design Awards, honouring and celebrating India’s greatest design thinkers, in four broad categories with further sub categories which include Product Design, Arts Practice, Textile Craft and Fashion and Space. Two other extremely intriguing aspects of TIS is its theme this year, ReLove, ReInvent and Revive and their What’s Next section which gives a platform to younger brands to be discovered at a festival like this.
I strongly feel TIS is an experience and my journey with them is just beginning. To learn more, I met up with the two absolutely fabulous women behind TIS, the driving force and the initiators, Madhu Neotia and Abhilasha Sethia and quizzed them about how they came up with The India Story.
What is the story behind The India Story?
Madhu Neotia: The journey began in Jaipur a couple of years back after I became the Chairperson of the IICD, on one of my trips to Jaipur I happened to stay at a hotel called The Fairmont where everything was of Indian make. I was also at that time grappling with ideas of Indian aesthetics and indigenous production. So many beautiful things are being produced, unique things are being done, but none of that is showcased. What is only showcased is the poverty. So the idea behind The India Story came from that- to show that India has moved on from its past, rooted only in the handicrafts, and modern techniques are being adopted. I wanted to showcase this very shift.
Abhilasha Sethia: Unlike Madhu, what excited me the most, was the food. Initially I was not even sure I would be able to manage it, but gradually as things fell into a pattern, I could quickly adapt to them. Of course, the different verticals had there own impact in convincing me to be part of it along with the entire aspect of celebrating Indian design.
What were some of the challenges you faced while starting TIS?
MN: There were many challenges. Selecting the participants itself was a challenge. On top of that, selecting the team was a tough task; rather bringing them together was a challenge. We were all from different walks of life, who had never worked on a project together. But in the end, we all came together in a creative way to put this beautiful thing up. All of us, had our own unique skills and issues, and with time it helped us strengthen the inner dynamics of the team.
AS: Yes, getting the participants together was definitely a challenge. What emerged as a bigger challenge however, was the sheer magnitude of the entire event, with so many different verticals to take care of.
What are the India Story Design Awards, what was the idea behind this?
MN: TISDA was instituted because we felt there wasn’t enough recognition to artists in various fields of Design from across the country- whether established artists or young and upcoming talents. Since TIS was all about Design, we thought of TISDA hoping that it would encourage more artists, well established or otherwise, to keep exploring various uncharted territories in Indian Design, and become a part of TIS.
A little about season two of TIS, and what you’re most looking most forward to?
MN: In our second edition, we have added a lot of new elements. We wanted to encourage a lot of youngsters to take part and showcase what young India has to offer. Western influences in design have gained such a strong foothold in our country! We came up with What’s Next to show the dynamic new things in design that youngsters are doing. We’re doing it in a small way this year and we hope to come back with it in a larger scale in our forthcoming editions. We have already spoken about the awards. The other thing which will be very interesting this year is the revival section. Our family long since been involved in the revival of textiles and arts, and this just felt right. Mr. Mitchell Crites has worked with us before and has done some stunning stone inlay work. Mr. Rahul Jain is a renowned name in textile revival. These two people are the best in their fields and were the best people to take care of this section. We also wanted to bring together innovative art and installation from across the country and hence we formed TIS Platform for that very purpose. The idea is, we want to educate people through TIS. The people who visit, don’t necessarily have to come to TIS to shop. They can do so many other things and in the process, learn how many things are being done in this country.
AS: I would like to reassert What’s Next as one of the highlights of TIS’16. it’s all about young blood, young design, be it in fashion, food or art. So i think there’s going to be a lot of energy in that section. Of course, besides this, there’s the Baori, the specially put together food pop-up we are keenly designing this year which will serve traditional and some nearly forgotten recipes of Rajasthan.
Two of your favourite brands to watch out for and why?
MN: Each and every one of our participants is important for TIS. So I think it’s a very difficult question to answer. What I would like to state is that I’m looking forward to meeting everyone.
AS: Yes, true. Every brand is to watch out for so I do not want to pick one or two names in particular.
Where do you see TIS in the next five years?
MN and AS: Destination Kolkata!
AS: To organise the event on such a scale that the entire city is mobilised and we attract people from all across the country too.
MN: To make Kolkatta a design destination. And who knows, perhaps one day, take TIS abroad.
I, for one cannot wait to experience the enriching journey The India Story will be. Follow it digitally through my Instagram and through TIS’s Instagram and Facebook from the 20th to 23rd October’16, and if you can, jump on the plane, take the train and come experience the celebration of arts with us in the city of Joy.
Leaving you with a little glimpse of what’s awaited and what I look most forward to some of these brands
All picture and graphics courtesy The India Story (Rights reserved with them).