Many moons ago while I was a child, Indian Railways was the only mode of long distance travel. I always looked forward to my travel to boarding school by train. We travelled sleeper class and it was a luxury to be able to get a window seat.
What we saw in those long hours in the train is still ingrained in my memory. Observing costumes in different cities, visuals of long winding electrical and postal wires playing on an infinite loop, a sighting of an Indian Roller bird was considered lucky as was throwing coins in the Ganges.
I enjoyed observing the fields and towns that came our way, right from cities like Varanasi, Itawa to Lucknow and Haridwar. Taking a long distance train from my home town Daltonganj was always the beginning of an interesting journey, be it a steam engine or my short trip on a diesel locomotive; these were moments I enjoyed and they were my window to the outside world.
What you couldn’t ever miss were the porters in their red shirts and gold arm bands. There was something about the red and the gold and it has inspired me to bring out this whimsical range as an ode to Indian Railways aka भारतीय रेल
Once the pandemic is over, I look forward to a long train journey to the furthest point in India!
Images hand printed by silkscreen, 100% wood free and recycled paper pages.
Stationery is personal again. While using them we develop a bond, be it a Meri Kitab notebook and pencil for your thoughts and ideas or a Meri Kitab bookmark for the books that you plan to read; they will be perfect personal companions in your journey. This range is one of our most successful and is available for purchase online. A perfect gift for those that love their stationery!
For the last 10 years, we have been using handloom textiles sourced from cooperatives across rural India to make many of our products, especially our hand-stitched journals. Many of our ranges are named after handloom textiles like Indigo, Silk and Cotton. These journals have pages that are handmade from recycled and wood-free paper. Handloom and handmade paper making are village industries that give employment to millions of people in rural India.
The Ambassador is indigenously Indian, a classy concoction of initiative, inspiration and invention. Dubbed “King of Indian Roads”, it was an epitome of reliability and robustness; a neighbours envy and an owners pride. A true doyen of India’s journey through the times. A miniature ambassador in brass is available for purchase online.
Creative and essential stationery, office accessories, notebooks, handmade pencils, pens, notepads, paperweights and decoratives for your work-from-home table. Express Shipping | Handcrafted In India | COD Available
An old-fashioned photo frame, made from seasoned teak wood. Minimal and with no metal, bling, gold, intricacies, etc. Just a simple picture frame where the centre of attraction should be the picture! Size: 4×6 inches. These will be available at our stores from mid August.
Horses, inspired by Kalaghoda. White and gold instead of the typical black. Here's our fresh new range of notecards, jewelry, pencils, cuff links, paperweights, key chains, notebooks and notepads. Now available at our flagship store at Kalaghoda, Fort.
We redrew the Kalaghoda map with our store location and historical places of interest. Maps and drawings have always been an integral part of our design thinking. We have used numerous authentic ones to decorate our journals and pencils. Soon, the handprinted Kalaghoda map with information on historic monuments in the vicinity, will be available free of cost for our visitors to explore the precincts.
On Global Tiger Day, a stanza from one of my favourite poems:
Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry? ~ by William Blake
I fondly remember Betla tiger reserve that was very close to our home, every year we would visit the wildlife park and hire a jeep with extra lights. While in the park, small movements would startle us and our guide would tell us about the animal that we could rarely see. In the small eating joint around the park, there was a notice board that had the name of the visitor who last sighted a Tiger. Many a times our vehicle was chased by wild elephants and the only animals that we saw in abundance were deer and bison.
Coming soon, a range of products with the Tiger as a theme.
“Some things can’t be replaced”, she said while changing cars and posting a picture of our India map bookmark.
Entrepreneur Swati Randev-Verma visited our Mumbai Airport store in the year 2013 and left the below feedback, “ I love your products – the map of India(bookmark) sits proudly dangling from the rear view mirror of my red mustang!” Her husband Rohit has the Ek Onkar bookmark in his car, he is a triathlete and an Ironman participant.
Swati has launched her own social enterprise Ahem Asmi
“The first time I visited Mumbai, over a decade ago in the year 2007, I came here and got acquainted with the Kala Ghoda festival, I took part for a few years and that’s when our brand started garnering attention and piqued the interest of many. I began by opening my first store at the Mumbai Airport, and now, finally I have got the opportunity to come back to where it all began – at Kala Ghoda!” – Anand Prakash
Paper was my first love; the very first business that I started over seventeen years ago. A lot of my work was raw and natural with torn edges and exposed fibres. Back then, the word eco-friendly wasn’t something that everyone was aware of. I bought my first sheet at the Gramudyog Bhawan in Connaught Place, Delhi and since then I have literally gone deep into its fibres, making, selling and their distribution. I have built relations with paper artists over the years and worked closely in creating a variety of them using techniques developed in-house and by experimenting with a lot of natural fibres, dyes and raw material. I have had a loyal set of followers who have appreciated and bought most of our work with paper. A time came when greeting cards lost their charm, the sales went downward and I had to innovate and survive. I may have done a lot of work in metal but I never forgot paper. Till today we have a steady stream of stationery and paper products coming out of our studios.
Here are a few papers that I have saved from the past. These were limited editions that I procured from artisans across the world. I have decided to exhaust the remaining sheets to launch a new range of stationery, journals and other pieces of art from our upcoming flagship store at Kala Ghoda, Mumbai.
These were prototypes that were done a few years ago and I have not made up my mind on whether these should be launched. For every piece that is released, I have three prototypes that go into cold storage.
Procrastination has actually helped me. I call it fate, I call it destiny, it’s inevitable. Many a times, I feel that ideas will work their way up at their leisurely gait and I should not be the one that questions the status quo.
Yesterday, while visiting Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram, an idea struck me; why not do a short and impromptu survey amongst the visitors there.
The survey had only one question:
What is the first word that comes to your mind when I say "Mahatma Gandhi"?
I went to the museum shop (incidentally some of our Gandhi themed souvenirs sell here) and picked up a notepad and pen. I thought of roping in a few college students but the paucity of time compelled me to go it alone. It felt a little odd first but then I lost all inhibitions and started talking to people around.
The sample group comprised of 31 people. I tried a diverse set comprising tourists(old, young and from across the country), cleaning staff, security guard, school and college students, families, brick layer, gardener, autorickshaw driver, artist, architect, management student, pavement seller, taxi driver and young children. I remember one person couldn’t come up with a word, I think his mind went blank. Another asked his child and the child said accha. Amongst a family of four, everyone tried to give me a different word. A Gujrati lady couldn’t understand Hindi or English so I had to find a translator; I was not going to give up. An old cleaning lady was a personality in herself, she had four gold-capped teeth and her jewellery was awesome. I later went looking for her to click a snap. An old taxi driver was quite vitriolic. A cheeky architectural student with his shades over his nose told me that he was only there because of Charles Correa, I patiently heard him and told him that I only wanted a word from him; he had to oblige. Most of the people reacted with a lot of respect and nostalgia. The autorickshaw driver wasn’t happy because the ashram was under renovation and it looked too modern for him to relate it to Gandhi. The policeman with his moustaches touching the sky was quite polite. The brick layer said he liked the ashram and always asked the contractor to send him there.
I was strolling around Dhalgarwad market, looking for the right textile shopkeeper to answer a few questions about replacing plastic bags with more eco-friendly ones. I crossed many, looking for that empty shop which would give me and the shopkeeper ample time to discuss our agenda. Some were empty but the owners did not look affable; some expressions were stern while some were the least bothered. Many shops went by and I was getting worried, occasionally looking ahead if the market was about to end. After criss-crossing a few lanes; I finally found my chap happily smiling with yellowing teeth. There was something about his demeanour that gave me the confidence to approach him. As I entered, I sensed he knew that I was not there to buy any of his hundred rupee cut-pieces; was I overdressed for the occasion? My fathers oft-spoken words were ringing in my ears, "Jaisa desh, waisa bhesh". I was already in so I started with a little introduction; I gave him my flashy card to break the ice and asked if he had a few minutes to spare. Uvesh was his name, I discussed the nitty-gritty of getting him to convert to eco-friendly packaging. He laid down the challenges threadbare and had valid points. He was hesitant to get his picture clicked therefore I took shots of the rolls of fabric stacked together on the shelves. He looked young, in his 20’s so I asked him if he ever wanted to do something else, my question got him all nostalgic over his failed business of mineral water pouches. While our conversation was progressing, he offered lemon tea. The cup was super-small compared to the humongous ones that I usually down. I looked at the tiny thing and wondered if I would be able to squeeze out a second sip, nevertheless I couldn’t refuse the offer from my dear host so I gulped it down. It was time to say goodbye, I left telling him that this meeting was destined and we may never meet again. The only memory that remains is of the pint-size tangy masala lemon tea!
This is just the packaging. The product has been ready for some time now and the effort in its packaging is more elaborate and time-consuming. The saying "The first impression is the last impression!" holds true. Coming soon…
Saw this at NID, not many know that metal and utensils were my family business. We still have an aluminium utensil factory in Palamau, Jharkhand. The "Lota" is an integral vessel in homes here. These come in aluminium, brass, steel and copper. Different faiths use them for different purposes. Some use it for ritual purification. Invocation of mantras in a pooja starts with "jal" and flowers in it. It is mainly used as a vessel for water and also helps in the kitchen. Sadly these days, plastic ones are also vying for space amongst shelves in local shops.
Isn’t this awesome? I got down at "Teen Darwaza" and was walking around Pankore Naka in Ahmedabad. I found this at a hardware shop, doing business since 1875 and presently run by Mr Fakhruddin. Sometimes the strangest of places show us the most creative things.
People think I am a magician; they come to me with ideas and requests that sometimes leaves me stupefied. I have to shake myself and ask if it is real. An ex-princely state asked us to recreate the whole palace in 24K gold plated intricate brass lines. At first, it sounded impossible but then the real magicians at Anand Prakash executed it to perfection.
I wanted to sample local Gujrati cuisine. This place is second on Tripadvisor’s list of the best places to eat in Ahmedabad. It was a snack joint with a surprisingly modern look and feel. Clean, non-fussy, efficient and running in clockwork-precision but a tad expensive for a snack joint. The menu was simple but difficult to comprehend so I asked the gentleman to suggest the most popular dish, he pointed towards the most expensive one, I looked at him with suspicion, either it was to finish-off the non-moving dish or he had an inkling of my first visit here. I must confess…It was good and I washed it down with a glass of sugarcane juice. Maybe someplace else tomorrow.
Uniform at NID.
Their cloth bags aka “Jholas” are nice, they remind me of Palamau in Jharkhand where these are used by the local populace. Long before they became fashionable in the cities, they played an integral part across the rural hinterland. The long-lasting plastic and nylon ones were up-cycled from old sugar and cement sacks. In my childhood, when the only mode of long-distance travel available to us were trains, I would notice these with the rural folk often wondering what they held inside. Many of them travelled with just one of these; packing enough for their journey ahead. I guess these were affordable, easy to carry, fold, stuff or rest their weary heads on.
You never stop learning!
At NID for a few days attending a workshop on design thinking.
Around the year 1999, when I realised that my true calling was craft and design, I tried for admission here, my form was rejected because I was over the age limit of 22. I then taught myself through books and practical hands-on experiences. Every now and then I get requests for jobs and internships from NID graduates and post-grads. I have come a long way since then and my quest to learn and better myself will continue.
Listen to the birds chirping away amongst the lush green foliage of the NID campus in Ahmedabad. Intentionally, there is no visual in this video because our senses work better one at a time.
The atmosphere here is laid-back and relaxed. Life moves at its own leisurely pace giving the students and faculty ample of time to find their strengths and nurture their creative mind.
A set of eight soft bound notebooks with Jaali print covers. Blank pages in mill-made paper. What is a Jaali?
Intricate ornamental openwork in wood, metal, stone, etc. A jali or jaali, is the term for a perforated stone or latticed screen, usually with an ornamental pattern constructed through the use of calligraphy and geometry. This form of architectural decoration is found in Indian and Indo-Islamic Architecture. Early jali work was built by carving into stone, while later by the Mughals who employed the technique of inlay, using marble and semi-precious stones.
The latest addition to my collection; old Indian matchbox labels. Some of them will go into a limited edition product range which will be a collectors edition. These labels speak volumes on the cultural influences prevailing in those times.
The hobby of collecting different match related items is called Phillumeny.
Everyone is calling it #Nationalhandloomday so here are my two cents. For a self-taught person like me the definition is simple; handloom is a manually operated loom.
My relationship with handloom started in bazaars where I took notice of these fabrics being sold by weavers. I talked to them and my interest grew, I bought a few yards here and there and started experimenting. I read about the various techniques and styles – the subject is so vast that I am still learning.
Handloom fabrics are of one of the many materials that I work with. We have been successful in bringing it into the hands of people who do not use them as dress material. They carry our journals and it records their intimate thoughts, feelings and ideas. It is a constant companion that contains handwritten words matched in beauty with its handloom textile cover. Be it cotton, Indigo dyed cotton, Silk or Ikat fabric; I have done my bit by bringing handloom and its story into the lives of many people across the world. We make thousands of these journals requiring large volumes of fabric. I source these fabrics from across the country, often buying from village cooperatives and organisations that are keeping the process alive.
I was in Benares a few days back and I went to one of the localities that once used to be the hub for handlooms. While passing through its alleys, the only sound I heard was of the mechanised looms, each clatter sounded like the death knell for handlooms. I met a few weavers and heard their story, they earn a pittance and many of them have changed their jobs, some to cart pullers and some have become daily wage labourers.
I noticed something important, the younger generation does not want to do what their forefathers did therefore they are studying with a belief that their life will change. This belief is shattered when they don’t get the requisite jobs, leaving them with an education that does not give them a job and a lack of skills that will not let them get back to what their forefathers did.
In the coming months, I will be working closely with award-winning weavers to bring you handloom fabrics that will go into making products that will be cherished for years to come.
Jaipur, the pinkcity has always been an inspiration. It is difficult to capture in a Nikon the distinct “pink” that the city is bathed in.
The challenge is in explaining the colour to your silk screen printer. We don’t work with Pantone cards, our printers only work with physical paper samples therefore all the more difficult to get the right shade. Since he is working with me for over a decade; he can anticipate my choices. He will start with shades close to it and then work his way to different variations in the colour.
The above is time-consuming and physically done with a steel spatula and different inks. This goes on till the time we get the perfect shade. More on the colour mixing process in a future post!
At Anand Prakash embossing and gilding is still done the old fashioned way. The impression is first embossed on paper and then brushed with # gold powder, it is then left to dry for a few days. Once dry, the extra gold powder is brushed away leaving a gilded impression.
These are the bare tools of trade of a master silk screen printer having over 35 years of experience behind him. How much ever I try bringing in sophisticated tools and implements, he steadfastly refuses to part with these. He has done some exceptional work with us in the past and has lots more to offer in the coming future. What I am implying here is that great work does not need jazzy paraphernalia, it only needs passion and skill.
I have noticed that a lot of skilled people who are masters of their trade are very particular and possessive with their tools and any kind of change disrupts their creative cycle.
Let me be honest, I am one of those who buys all sorts of sophisticated tools but rarely uses them. So this is an eye-opener for me.
Pages along with pictures hand printed by silk screen waiting to be bound. Each product in our Taj Mahal range is accompanied with a booklet that speaks about the range, the designers thoughts, historical relevance and design elements that went into this range.
Everyone buying this range as a gift is aware of the booklets relevance and the gift is incomplete without it.
The second edition of our Indigo Shibori journals. Each jute thread is exactly the same size, the bows are identical and the placement exact. By now our craftsmen are so adept with measurements that just a cursory glance is enough to put the string at the right height. All our craftsmen have trained and picked-up skills with us, most of them come from a farming background and a few were landless workers. I trained the initial group many years ago and now it is passed-on from one person to another. It is in the DNA of our organisation.
Newcomers for many years are given work as per their skills and not as per the organisation’s requirement. After spending years under our older masters, a few of them find their rhythm and unique set of skills. Time is our best filter and the few that remain are the ones that love their work and follow it like a religion. I have no qualms in saying that I am what I am only because of them.
Serving Tray from our blueprint collection. These authentic blueprints are rare and difficult to find therefore these are made in limited nos. The tray is lined with metal in our signature style with intricate architectural drawings.
Only a few handlooms are operational and it’s a dying tradition. Weavers are paid a pittance and the younger generation is moving to other professions, some even becoming cart pullers and porters.
I visited a presidential award winning weaver and since I am self-taught, I look forward to learning more about this dying art. I will be working closely with him to create my own customised handloom textile that will go into making an exclusive Anand Prakash product with a touch of Benares.
This is where I start my journey through the by-lanes of Benares overlooking the ghats.
While exploring the old city of Benares, I came across Aakash, one of four brothers running Bana Lassi. Just nineteen months old, this place is cosy, with good seating and had many forms of art across its walls. How did he start: In today’s digital world, his earlier business of books was not doing well therefore he was looking out to do something else and that’s how this place came to be. The name Bana Lassi: Japanese pronounce ‘R’ as ‘L’ therefore Banarasi became ‘Bana Lassi’
In Benares you must have one of these gamcha’s around your neck. I got one.
Goodbye Benares, I take back a bag full of memories, inspiration and spiritual fulfilment. I will be back to explore and learn more from this timeless city.