Under the October sky, we set out with a bag full of hope and curiosity, our constant companion. Our journey to discovery, exploration and knowledge had begun. Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. I felt like the bird trapped in Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry while dreaming of my light & soul – Buna. Three years ago when the seeds of Buna were sown, we wanted to ensure that it branched out finesse and perfection in every piece of clothing it produced – from its fabric to motifs and hence, as founders travelled to Indian cities in search of inspiration and brought back a little bit of essence of every village, town or city we visited. This mélange of cultures and local vibes cultivated together became our tree of life, our brand. Harvested in the most natural way possible, we envisioned the roots of our brand as strong, slow & sustainable. We wanted each dress branched out of Buna to be au naturel and hence, set out in search of cotton in its purest yet the most appealing form. Our wanderings took us first to Bhuj where we found the comfort of handwoven cotton in all its glory. However, our cravings for added lustre and softer texture drew us towards the eastern part of the country.
The pleasant winds of the Bay land welcomed us with autumn’s fervour. We were in Bengal, the dwelling of the goddess of power, Durga and at a time when the winds had a whiff of the festive feels. Pandals were being set, temples decorated and the Bengali vibe was high in the air. We chose to stay at Rabindranath Tagore’s temple of knowledge, abode of peace - Shantiniketan. Living in a sustainable home there, observing the slowness of life while staring at the rhythmic flow of Kopai river took us back in time. A visit to Tagore’s museum was our tryst with an important part of literary history.
Our week long stay there was meant to uncover and inculcate in our brand, the exquisiteness of the Bengali mulmul. And so, we hired a car and decided to make day trips to neighbouring villages like Musthuli in Barddhaman and Phulia to explore the interiors and the local weaving culture. The Bengali countryside, untouched by modernisation, is a walk in the past. The population largely depends on cultivation and weaving. Almost every villager is skilled in the art of weaving, possibly passed down from generations and every household has a loom. The urban concept of sustainability is a way of life as whatever is produced is consumed and every bit reused. In the large community of weavers and producers, a mahajan heads a group of families and provides them with yarn and designs which they take back to weave. In weaving, gender roles remain fluid as both the man and the woman of the house contribute while the children play apprentice. Our lunches would be invites to the mahajan’s homes where the wives served us the best from Bengal’s local culinary culture – daal bhaat, the royal Bengali thick rice and then indulge us in sweets to pamper our palates. My evenings would pass dreaming of the jamdani embellished with motifs inspired by the clear Bengal skies and nature. We had discovered mulmul from the very source and our hunt for perfection was over. I knew this is what Buna would be all about.
We formed a beautiful synergy with two cooperations that are an integral part of the brand to date. With hopes fulfilled, we returned with a bag full of memories, enriched knowledge and experiences that I will hold close to my heart forever. I revisit the land of love almost every year in search of inspiration from the creativity blooming in households. I choose to stay at Shantiniketan, a place stuck in time & place and that carries Tagore’s legacy. I document my discoveries in pictures & notes to go through on a certain lovelorn day.
When I sit back to think of my Bengali sojourn, I often mutter, “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky” – Rabindranath Tagore.