To Calcutta with Love!

On my “free day”, thanks to a good friend Gauri, I had the honor amongst others, to have tea with Sabyasachi (or “dada” as I would have addressed him if I was in Calcutta, our home town).  For those of you who know him, I need not say much more.  For those who do not, when it comes to design and creativity, Sabya is an Indian icon.  He graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in India in 1999 and twelve years and many awards later is one of the top most celebrated designers in the world.

Sabya in person was the Sabya I had seen in print.  “Down to earth”y look and a warm persona. Sabya spoke to us of materials and processes.  He spoke of history and embroidery and the weaves and threads that go into making his clothing what it is.  He also spoke of  the “hands” that go into making his clothes and accessories look the way they do. There is only one of each piece since they are all handmade by ladies, a lot of whom have either suffered from domestic violence or those whose husbands rely on them as sole bread winners of the family.  Sabya not only “empowers”women that wear his clothing (anyone who owns anything by him will testify to this – it’s like owning a piece of history) but also tries to “empower” those women who spend hours making them.  This is Sabya’s way of giving back to his community.

I also had the pleasure of meeting other inspirational women – all those who inspired and “empowered” me in their own way!  Gita Pandit, a Loreto girl from Calcutta who left LH in 1980 in the pursuit of excellence in tennis.  Gita is one of those few women in India (or the world) who also has a zero handicap in golf.  All this done at a time when sport in India, forget women in sport in India were really non-existent – amazing!  Alice Cicolin ( who was Head of the British Council in Delhi for many years and also the woman who was behind the making of the Indian version of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream – with the use of ten Indian languages all at the same time in the play!  Alice now has her own jewellery brand and the pieces she designs are handmade by one of the last few remaining “meenakari” trained artisans in Jaipur.  Last but not the least, not to forget Little Natasha Platt, young lady from Delaware, Harvard alum, self-taught in design, who now works for Sabya in India and calls Calcutta her home!

Coming back to my “free day”.  I owe it completely to Liz Scully.  Liz who invited me to a Rethink Retreats ( earlier this week taught me a few things but two completely stuck in my head! .  The first – every entrepreneur should plan his/her days as “strategy days” (when you do all the thinking and researching around your business), “focus days” (when you do all the work, make calls, meet clients) and “free days” (as implied when you do absolutely nothing and take a rest)!  The second thing Liz asked us me to do was, even in the worst of times, no matter how big or small, write down what you have to be grateful for every single day.  

Yesterday, I was grateful for both my “free day” and also to my music teacher for canceling my tea-time lesson.  Playing music, I find is therapeutic for my soul but meeting and hearing inspirational people and stories is more “empowering”!  Here’s to owning a piece of history in time.

You can find out more about my work at

Deepali Nangia

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