Extending a hand to other deft hands

Jayashree Rajagopalan, an engineer working in research and development at an aerospace company in the U.S. says her eye for handlooms goes beyond aesthetics and reaches a cause

December is the time of the year for sailing through memories - recalling events, journeys, meetings, or even the buying we did to reach out towards a cause. Wishing that handloom artisans wake up to seeing better times, post-the-pandemic hopefully in the New Year, Jayashree Rajagopalan, speaking for the Madhurya Blog, says her love for the handloom is an extension of her persona. She ardently believes in being part of the process where hand-made crafts are made to survive and evolve into products of relevance for contemporary tastes. Wearing new clothes weaved by hand during functions get more meaningful to her by “extending a hand to other deft hands.”

Quintessentially groomed in a South Indian childhood that instilled a deep love for culture and tradition, Jayashree’s love for hand-made Dasara dolls too have her display them aesthetically at her home in Hartford - Connecticut (U.S.) for Navaratri. That’s not all. Her love for music and early grooming on the Veena, helps her play on the instrument during festivals. Yes, it’s a hand-made Saraswati veena that she still cherishes to play her kritis on, with memories of her buy from a modest instrument maker in Chennai.

Jayashree loves cooking along with her husband Dr. Ramesh Rajagopalan (who holds a Ph.D in Robotics) whose culinary skills translate to ‘a huge list of quick-and-easy recipes,’ even as the family brands him a star chef! Jayashree and Ramesh work for an aerospace company and balance careers that occupy them for nearly 40 hours a week! “We dish-out 15 varieties of food for nearly 75 guests every season during Navaratri,” says Ramesh adding that Jayashree decides on the makeup of the platter and the handmade gifts for the Navaratri guests.

Just as traveling interests Jayashree to discover history, cuisine and culture, visiting temples is the other side to her interest in mythology and tradition while soaking in the peace of spaces. For Jayashree - observing Madhurya artisans at work doing embroidery, and the meticulous designers and tailors who worked on ghagra-cholis for her daughter Archeta – it was a window of learning and awareness that opened up on Madhurya’s workshop wing, stitching up a tale on artisanal handcrafts.

Take a look at Jayashree’s journey, her influences, love for handcraft and her affinity and bond for Madhurya’s work

* Jayashree’s early years, study and profession associated with…

I was born in Jamnagar, Gujarat. I spent most of my childhood in Chennai. I studied Electronics & Communication Engineering at the College of Engineering, Guindy, in Chennai. I also earned a Masters in Computer Engineering at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. I live in the US and have managed research and development in Embedded Systems for an aerospace company since 2001.

* Her hobbies and interests and love for nature, music and veena in particular …

I enjoy learning Vedic astrology. My mother and my brother are good at it, so I learn from them. I like to follow a fitness regimen and practice yoga; my daughter Archeta is very good at it too! I love to travel around the world and get to know different cultures. I enjoy the warmth of the sun, the ocean, and the sand the most. I also learned to play veena as a child. My parents, siblings and sisters-in-law have deep passion and knowledge in Carnatic music. My 90-year-old mother, Padmasani, still discusses the nuances of ragas, talas and saint-poets, and even sings to me on phone! While I do listen to a lot of music and have been associated with my daughter’s dance, and her arangetram performance a few years ago, I take to my veena only during festivities and get-togethers, as I treasure the one I have at home. Playing regularly again has been on my to-do list.

* Leaning and love towards eco-fabrics, handloom and silk…

Having lived in a hot and humid environment in Gujarat and Chennai, I naturally enjoy breathable, light fabrics, hence my love for cotton clothing. I’ve always gravitated towards ethnic prints and designs. I wear saris on special occasions or even while visiting temples – in fact, we have a Satyanarayna temple just 20 minutes from home. I prefer wearing Kanjeevaram or Mysore silk saris.

* Jayashree’s experience in Madhurya and the stitch detailing extended to her from designers and tailoring experts …

When I met the staff members at Madhurya requesting them for tailoring of my huge list, they seemed calm and unruffled. They are passionate about the art and craftsmanship they deal with, in as much as they are ardent about their vocation pursued in contemplation.

I had a lot of blouses and ghagras to be stitched, but did not have the required time when I had visited Bangalore. My sister-in-law, Ranjani, suggested I visit Madhurya and request them for early delivery. Not only did they oblige and had them ready, but the creative streaks given in each piece was a delight. I did not realize the painstaking effort that goes into each piece at the Madhurya workshop – the tailoring shop. Even the co-working team of the designers and tailors were helpful in suggesting patterns. It was different to ‘perceive the world of design and tailoring’ even as the package delivered was neatly ironed and packed for travel. I am a delighted customer, and the staff at Madhurya makes me want to come back.

* The embroidery that she had from Madhurya craftsmen on her blouses…

The detailing in the blouses is artistic with designers following the taste of the customer. The anna pakshi, the buttis that twinkle like stars, the embroidery work in each of the blouses were all done professionally. In spite of the time limitations, the lehengas for my daughter Archeta were stitched in different patterns. The lehengas in gold, crimson, and pink were a big hit with my daughter. When she visited India, she stopped by at Madhurya and sure enough got a few blouses stitched too to her satisfaction. Madhurya has now become our family’s favorite store.

* Why would Jayashree recommend youngsters to the revival arts boutique Madhurya

Madhurya has the design and motifs both replicated from the past and also custom-made to reach out to every taste. What I admire is the creativity and attention to detail. No two pieces are alike. The cut and design are customized to suit the fabric, and the taste of the customer incorporating elegant ethnic patterns.

Madhurya has clothes and saris to suit not just the discerning Indian, but also folks from around the world. The comfortable clothing in cotton is sure to captivate the comfort-seeking traveler to beat the heat. The patterns and motifs are both unique and trendy. While any student wanting to learn textiles and designing can reach here, my Madhurya wear helps me create awareness about arts revival amongst my friends and relatives in the US.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published