It was during Shivaratri that Dr. Madhu Chopra was noticed amongst the huge crowd at Madhurya’s sari section recently. Admiring a gorgeous corn yellow Banarasi cotton sari, festooned with gleaming gold and silver zari, she straight away tells the staff to keep the sari aside for her. Smiling and courteous as she comes across, her polite camaraderie helps everyone around come closer to take selfies! “How is Priyanka doing madam? We read that you dote on your grand-daughter now, congrats!” says an excited, star-struck customer, spotting the unassuming mother of global star Priyanka Chopra.
“It’s more than 10 years ago that stylist Ami Patel introduced me to the Art of Living. I come here at least four times in a year to soak in the Ashram’s pure air, and seek Gurudev’s blessings, available copiously! Clutching to handlooms at Madhurya was after an incidental Madhur (sweet) experience during one such visit, something that would eternally further my empathy towards handloom weavers in India!” she says to a curious Madhurya staffer who wanted to find out more on her fascination for hand looms.
Madhu went on to explain the host of buys she has made at Madhurya in the last decade, including the famous breezy yellow toned handloom Jamdani sari that Priyanka Chopra wore for receiving her Padma Shri Award in 2016. “Priyanka just adored it. She chose to wear it for the big occasion, as it was stunning, calling it ‘regal, yet not flashy.’ The sari was a caring gesture towards weavers, and of significance that hand looms required the right occasion to voice a cause. She supports all hand-made crafts,” added Madhu.
Priyanka’s Jamdani is weaved in floral bel (creeper) pattern, weaved in traditional style where the butis are in silver coloured zari. The silver embossing of the floral motifs with multiple floral blooms in the pallu add to its classy makeover. Jamdani is a varying weft technique of weaving, defined as the art of fine ‘Parsi Gara’ done on the loom. Jamdani means flower vase in Persian. The motifs look like mosaics, inserted into the fabric by adding denser threads to fine warp threads, all by hand.
“Priyanka and I wear handloom saris that we source from all over India. I personally avoid wearing power-loom saris,” says Madhu adding that she appreciates each of the interlaced splendour in handloom, in the pride of collection she possesses. “When celebs buy and talk about the art embedded in the handmade legacy of India’s near-150 diverse weaves mapping numerous localities and its regional specialities, it helps backing an industry struggling to survive, fighting the power loom overload. What Madhurya is doing is commendable as they support 1080 weavers across India – an initiative to preserve the weaves and move towards sustainable living. Their sale proceeds are also supporting girl child education in remote villages through ‘Gift a Child’ initiative,” says Madhu.
In the journey of discovering different weaves and patterns, Madhu Chopra says it’s gratifying to see Madhurya documenting their work, helping society get closer to knowing the intricacies of each pattern, much as people are exposed to weaver-struggles. “This makes us appreciate the nuances of handmade weaves better,” says Madhu, who has bought Jamdani, Banarasi and cottons, and even got several stitched at the Madhurya couture facilities available.
Textile revival boutiques as Madhurya will help the younger generation take a closer look at the heritage value these weaves embrace. The corroboration brought in on the origin of weaves, designs, weaving procedures all make up for a full-bodied call to capture the attention of growing young minds who want to invest in them.
“I had myself gone to Kanchipuram to see and understand the weaving progression involved in Kanchipuram weaves – how the body, border & pallu are weaved separately; how they deal with the meticulous dyeing processes that are cherished in the weaving world. It was just incredible to see thousands of families who have converted their homes into a cottage industry. I got to know from a weaver and his wife that the signature tones and shades brought into their saris are also due to their local water bodies that contain specific minerals! It was an eye-opener for me”, says Madhu.
The Mumbai-based doctor is celebrating 15 years of her cosmetic clinic ‘Studio Aesthetique’ - that she started along with her (late) husband Dr.Ashok Chopra. Madhu also worked as a doctor for the Armed Forces for a significant part of her career. “Talking of my craze for different weaves, I went to the extent of taking my own gold and silver to a weaver in Banaras during Priyanka’s wedding to have one of the wedding saris done to my specification. I stayed to see the Zari being done, and how arresting the protracted process was. It took nine months for the weaver to customize the brilliance of silk and brocade union!!!” she recalled.