The silver lining in the dark cloud of insurgency, conflict and militarisation in Kashmir lies in its beauty, says veteran designer Rohit Bal who paid a fitting tribute to his birthplace with a fashion show, where he let a group of Kashmiri women take the spotlight.
Born in Kashmir himself, Bal has, over the years, ensured he remains connected to his roots and spread its beauty around the world with his internationally popular creations.
It’s a paradox — that while a lot of filmmakers capture the violence in the state nowadays, Bal’s creative interpretation of Kashmir has always revolved around the elements that make Kashmir the nature’s paradise it is.
“It’s a simple explanation. I come from Kashmir. I am a Kashmiri, I know what’s happening in the state. I grew up in a free Kashmir and unfortunately now it’s a war zone,” said Bal.
“But what I am trying to do here is to let people know that no matter how troubled the times might be there, there is still beauty and that beauty can never be taken away from Kashmir. No matter what you do there, no matter how hard anyone tries, the beauty of Kashmir will, Inshallah, always be there because it can never be taken away,” Bal added.
He says the beauty is akin to “a silver lining in a black cloud, a ray of hope, and a light in the thunderstorm”.
“I want people to know that Kashmir may be war-torn, but the beauty of Kashmir will always be a part of a Kashmiri’s life... By showing this beauty, I want people to understand that there’s always a ray of hope,” said the designer, who showcased a line called ‘Guldastah’ at the Lakme Fashion Week summer-resort 2019 here on Wednesday.
For the show, the ramp was strewn with dry Chinar leaves, and shikaras laden with colourful flowers added a touch of Kashmir. A playlist of Kashmiri songs, which were followed by lilting Bollywood melodies, gave the dreamy show a perfect backdrop.
But the showstoppers — about eight women from Kashmir who were trained by the Usha Silai team and then worked on Bal’s collection in the freezing winter — won the audience’s heart.
In an emotional gesture, Bal let them take the centre stage, the spotlight and the joy of a standing ovation wholeheartedly.
This initiative, he said, is a step ahead for him.
“Nothing can give me more satisfaction than doing this. In fact, after doing this, I am feeling I am going to do so much more and I am confident about giving back to these people.
“I want to try to make them earn much more than they do. I am going to make sure my association with Usha Silai is a long one so I can reach out to more people as possible,” Bal said.
He is proud of the “incredible talent” in what he calls “my Valley”.
The designer says he goes to Kashmir often.
“I just don’t go there in the winter... I am not a winter person. But it’s just an hour away from Delhi, and anytime I find myself some free time, like a long weekend and I feel I want to feel lighter, I head there.
“Sometimes I go for a few days, sometimes I go for a longer time. It rejuvenates me. But it also makes me very sad... I won’t say it’s all happiness. It is depressing, but like I said, the beauty... In the calamity, the beauty is there to soothe your mind.”