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The ‘Sari’ Renaissance: Make in India inspires Manish Malhotra’s ‘Regal Threads’

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When Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi decided to spin his own yarn and weave his own fabric, he wanted to inspire India to be self sufficient and to not be dependent or enticed by the western goods or lifestyle.

Inspired by Gandhiji, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make In India” campaign has come full circle. India is searching within its roots. For years, Indian fashion designers have seeked to break the rules and juxtapose Indian fashion alongside the trends in New York, Paris and Milan.

On the other hand, designers & high end labels from New York & Paris have looked to India for inspiration.

Drawing from the authentic, hand-crafted one of a kind techniques in a modern context to the adventurous, uniquely-spirited luxury clientele.

In Mumbai, where Bollywood and Indian fashion collide & collaborate, there is a new buzz.

Underneath one of Manish Malhotra’s showrooms, stretched across a large table are the latest saris fresh off the looms. The new collection “Regal Threads” is singing an old tune. Silks, Benarasis and woven using handlooms, just imperfect enough to be authentic in technique & texture.

“I am so happy the sari is back the way it used to be,” Malhotra says, of his decision to create these pieces using the handloom rather than power loom – a rewind to the original craftsmanship of the sari.

His team checks and irons the saris before delivering them to the shop floor.

For Malhotra is all about breaking the rules, and in the world of power looms and 3D printing, the slightly rustic, hand made in India has now made a comeback.

But, its not just technique, ‘Regal Threads’ is modern and fresh. Using traditional Benarasi brocade, overlaying bold, gold florals & paisleys on distinctively western plaids and stripes in neutral grays and blacks, Malhotra is able to blend the traditional and authentic with chic & modern.

Malhotra is among a wave of fashion designers enthused by the “Make In India” campaign. Launched in 2014, it aims to encourage business across the Globe to manufacture their goods in India.

In a recent interview with Diya TV, designer Anita Dongre says she has and continues to find inspiration in India. Her modern and traditional mix has garnered the attention of the diaspora worldwide and she plans to open a boutique in New York later this year.

Gaurav Bhatia, a luxury consultant and trend spotter, says, “[In the late 1990s], the sari fell out of favor in lieu of ‘Indo-Western’ wear, a trend that allowed a certain amount of casualness and perceived modernity, with kurtis (short, trendy tunics) and churidars (tight pants aka. The Indian legging).”

In 2011, LVMH’s Hermes launched a new line of saris for the Indian market. The Hollywood counterparts in India rocked the same designers from the west, until an option such as Hermes became available.

The Indian retail industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and the brands from the west now want a piece. Even brands such as Mango, Marks & Spencer and Zara began to arrive on the Indian high street – making Western clothing accessible and affordable. Make in India, however, has fostered a patriotism that has been critical in swaying Indian consumers back to the sari, says Bhatia.

“There’s now a great deal of pride in dressing Indian and wearing Indian. While the sari got lost for a while — with women in urban India choosing the convenience of Western wear — it’s now making a comeback.

“It’s about embracing one’s culture organically, and it’s cool to do so.”

The decision by Malhotra, and other designers, to return to the sari’s roots has been well received.

“I feel like a million bucks when I wear handloom saris,” says Gayatri Rangachari Shah, vice president for Tina Brown Live Media India.

“I know I am supporting weavers who need help in accessing new markets and customers. So many of our crafts are dying and it would make a big difference if everyone did their bit to support our centuries old talent.”

Shah is not alone: while spending on luxury goods in India grew 25 per cent in 2014, according to research firm Euromonitor, international brands still only account for a tiny share of the market.

Indian consumers favor foreign brands when it comes to shoes, bags and watches, they prefer traditional dress when it comes to clothes.

In the south Indian city of Bengaluru, entrepreneurs Ally Matthan and Anju Maudgal Kadam last year started a viral campaign.

The #100sareepact asks women to make a pledge to wear a sari twice a week — or 100 times a year — and share images of them doing so on social media.

With over 800 followers on Twitter, and with more than 7,500 posts under the hashtag on Instagram, the campaign has seen women post not just pictures of their saris, but has also sparked debate on drapes and weaves, and inspired women to share the stories behind their saris. If you want to get involved in the debate, you can do so by creating an Instagram, and you can always get free instagram followers without a survey if your profile is slow to get noticed; that way people are more likely to see your input.

Sangeeta Mhatre, who works for an international bank in Mumbai, is halfway into the year-long #100sareepact commitment, and says she has been pleasantly surprised by how her sari has been received in the office.

“I find that saris command a lot more respect than any other form of office wear, and actually make a power statement the Indian way,” she says.

Malhotra, of course, is a man who understands the power of social media on fashion. The 50-year-old designer has over 700,000 Instagram followers and believes the platform is helping fuel the renaissance of traditional craftsmanship in the sari market.

“I respect social media for that … there’s a lot of awareness celebrating art and crafts, and culture, and tradition,” he says.

“Various designers are doing interesting things with handloom and textiles and I think, for me at Manish Malhotra as a label, as a designer, as a person, its very exciting for me to do a lot of textile and most importantly is to get the sari back [in fashion].”

With the Spring Summer 2016 collection of Regal Threads, Malhotra is doing just that.

*This article was first published on CNN.

Arts & Culture

HC4A Founder, Harish Kotecha receives Lifetime Achievement award from NAEHCY

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AUSTIN (Diya TV) — Harish Kotecha, founder and president of Hindu Charities for America (HC4A) received the Sandra Neese Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) at the 32nd Annual Conference.

He is the first Indian American to receive this national recognition.
Sandra Neese Lifetime Achievement Award is presented annually to honor individuals who have tirelessly worked to ensure that all children may have what most take for granted: safety, shelter, and a future; and that young people without shelter may find the promise of tomorrow.

NAEHCY’s Board of Directors were impressed with “your [Kotecha’s] ability to transform a singular movement into a replicable program that now is established in 4 major cities.”

In her award letter to Kotecha, Jimiyu Evans, President, NAEHCY wrote that, “We are glad to have an advocate like you in the field to meet the needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness – supporting and encouraging academic success – while implementing program
coordination and community collaboration.”

Kotecha, while beaming at the live video presentation at the virtual conference, mentioned that, “This award recognizes the impact of HC4A, all the volunteers, donors, sponsors and well-wishers of HC4A!”
Kotecha’s family was ousted from Uganda by its brutal dictator in 1971.

When he sought refuge in the US, there was not much by means of finances and housing. However, having a good education and determination to succeed, turned his life around. He turned all setbacks into a successful career in technology. Gratitude came full circle in his life when he resolved to serve the underprivileged through education.

He took an early retirement from IBM in 2001 and ever since has unwaveringly worked towards supporting children and youth of homeless families in their educational journey.

HC4A was founded by him in 2010 with the mission to ‘Bridge Income Disparities through Education.’ Ever since, the nonreligious and nonpolitical nonprofit has raised over $1 million to provide school supplies for elementary school children and vocational scholarships to nontraditional students. In response to the pandemic, HC4A also helped homeless students get internet connectivity for a year.

“He identified a huge social problem to solve that many assumed it to be government agencies’ or administration’s work. He and his volunteers have consistently delivered on the promises made to multiple school district administrations. More importantly, he has developed broader communities in his organization efforts,” says Alok Singh, Director, Global Strategy &; Transformation at Dell Technologies.

In addition to liaising with partner nonprofits to reach out to those in need, HC4A also brings the Indian American community together to volunteer and donate towards their cause with the motto of ‘Serve Where you Live.’ It now has chapters in four major cities: Austin, Houston, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

Rosie Coleman, Coordinator &; District Homeless/Foster Care Liaison, Austin ISD said, “This is so great! No one deserves this more than Harish and Hindu Charities. Thank you for everything you do for our Austin ISD students!”

Coming in an especially hard year, this award sends a wave of joy in the HC4A community. Kotecha has woven an intricate fabric of community members—from high net worth donors who have achieved their American Dream to below poverty line students who have often doubled their incomes soon after being able to complete their education. They now prepare for the next big event: a virtual gala in November to raise funds for vocational scholarships for low-income youth and adults. 

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Dive into the IFFLA’s virtual fest as you celebrate the 4th

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IFFLA Over the Years

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — In the digital age of streaming services where you can play every movie ever made, festivals too are changing. While in person festivals are going to be a while away, Virtual Film Festivals are booming.  IFFLA Over the Years is the festival’s response to the ongoing uncertainty in the film festival world. To that end, the previously announced 2020 lineup will be moved to 2021 so that filmmakers and audiences can join together and share the festival experience in person.

This year’s showcase is a special one, IFFLA Over The Years: 17 days celebrating 17 years of Indian cinema, is way of looking back all of those that have passed through the hallowed grounds. IFFLA brings you the best of yesteryear, with gems like Anurag Kashyap’s legendary godfather-esque Gangs of Wasseypur, the late Irrfan Khans shakespearean classic Maqbool, Lena Khan’s fresh immigrant tale The Tiger Hunter. The bulking roster ranges from narrative features, documentaries, to short films like Neha RT’s hilarious satire The Shailas, the oscar-nominated KUSH, the infuriating Bebaak.  With 17 days to fly through the virtual festival will span form June 19th to July 5th leaving you just enough time to experience every joy, ache, bellowing laugh, and uncle-inducing cringe.

 “We are beyond thrilled to be presenting this online showcase of alumni films,” said Christina Marouda, IFFLA’s founder. “Traveling through 17 years of programming has allowed us to reconnect with so many of our alumni with whom we share fond memories. We are excited with this opportunity to collaborate with them to offer new audiences worldwide the chance to discover some of the most visionary voices of Indian independent cinema in recent years. We also hope recent IFFLA attendees have a chance to catch up with films from our first decade, and early attendees who could not join us in recent years are able to discover some of the newer gems we’ve presented. There is literally a film for everyone’s appetite.”

A Female Lens features films made by and/or centering on women such as Karishma Dev Dube’s Devi (Goddess), starring Priyanka Bose (Lion); “This Is Not Fiction presents  award-winning documentaries including Faiza Ahmad Khan‘s hilarious Supermen of MalegaonStories of Youth” highlights children and adolescence in films such as Rima Das’ festival favorite Village Rockstars, which was India’s Oscar entry for 2019, and Shubhashish Bhutiani‘s Oscar-shortlisted short film Kush. “Diaspora Windows” shares stories of Indian characters living outside of India with highlights including Lena Khan’s The Tiger Hunter and Ruthy Pribar’s The Caregiver.

Over 70 short films are included in “Keeping it Short” with Neha RT‘s uproarious satire The Shaila(s) and Jennifer Rosen‘s piercing Laksh, making their online premiere with this virtual showcase.

Finally, Richie Mehta‘s India In A Day, Shonali Bose‘s Amu, Devashish Makhija‘s Taandav, Tanuj Chopra’s Pia, and Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s The Hour of Lynching are new additions to IFFLA’s programming by alumni.

Legedary fests such as Sundance and Cannes, set the trend for the virtual streaming fest and now we are seeing many Indian film festivals follow suit, IFFLA, NYSAFF & DYWSAFF.

Beat edging towards insanity by filling your days with more stories of hardship, of bliss, more tales of life just beyond the door, of lives just next door, and if they can get through it, so can you.

With 2020 being such an unprecedented year it’s easy to get caught up in the turbulence and feel overwhelmed. But we’ll get through this like we always have.  We’ve been through worse, our ancestors used to huddle together in the dark over bonfires in a fang and spear infested world speaking the first stories ever told. Wondrous adventures filled with heroes, villians, grim horrors, stunning beauty and everything in-between. These stories that brought us together, to feel safe around one another, these stories around the bonfire have transformed to become the projector and screens of today. A good story is what gets us through, inspiring us, enchanting us with dreams for tomorrow. So, feeling cooped up edging towards cabin fever?

We’re all right there with you so cancel your next Netflix binge there’s a long weekend of new movies ahead.

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Arts & Culture

An immigrant community’s gratitude, “serve where we live”

Founder of HC4A wanted to give back to where he lives: Austin. Hundreds of Indian Americans joined to open chapters across the US and raise over a million dollars for the cause.

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AUSTIN, Texas (Diya TV) — Indian Americans are the most educated and most affluent immigrant community in the United States. A recent survey conducted by Dalberg & Indiaspora shows that Indian Americans have the potential to give over 3 billion dollars annually. Harish Kotecha, founder of HC4A (Hindu Charities for America), came here with his family in 1972 when the dictator of Uganda gave all Indians a notice of 90 days to leave the country. His many successes in this country motivated him to build an organization that encourages philanthropy in the Indian American community with the motto ‘serve where we live.’

Organizations such as Akshaya Patra, Pratham USA, have raised millions of dollars over years within the US to to support causes in India and make a real difference. Stretching the dollar and making an enormous impact in the lives of millions of children in India. And even though Kotecha is well aware that a dollar remitted to India can create a big difference to a developing economy versus the US, he believes its importat to give back to the community we live in.

There is poverty here too. I thought it would be so great if the Indian community worked as one to serve those in need in the US,” says Kotecha. Hundreds of Indian Americans have been inspired to raise over a million dollars since the inception of HC4A in 2010. This is a small amount compared to nearly a half million raised in one night at the annual gala for the organizations funding education in India.

The HC4A mission is to ‘bridge income disparities through education.’ Two salient events raise funds for these endeavors: the HC4A Gala and Bollywood Meets Borscht Belt (BMBB). The Jewish community helps organize the BMBB event; leading Bollywood dance schools in Austin like Monsoon Dance and Agni lend the glitz and glamor to a high spirited night.

The HC4A Gala night
Attendees at HC4A Gala night in Austin

Schoolsupplies, backpack programs, and scholarships form the pillars of education-based giving for the volunteers at HC4A.

According to Dalberg, Education ranked at 61% as a passion cause for Indian American donors, followed by healthcare & Gender equality. “The Indian community is very successful, and we all came for one purpose, education, that was our driving factor. We know the struggle, so we are ready to support the cause for education,” says Vaishali Tendolkar, Secretary of HC4A.

Courtesy: Indiaspora & Dalberg Survey. Respondents were Indian American donors

Kotecha says that several Muslims and Jews fundraise and help organize events for HC4A. For him, the success of HC4A is the fact that people from all faiths and backgrounds come together to help the community they live in.

In 2017, Harish Kotecha was honored with the President’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.” As this model worked in Austin, Kotecha and his team worked on expanding HC4A’s presence to Southern California, Houston, and Dallas.

Nidhi Trehan, a sociologist, and a chapter leader for HC4A in Houston says, “If we reduce inequality here in the US, we will be working to reduce it globally.”

HC4A is asking us, that is Indian Americans, to reach out to other communities and give them a helping hand. We actually owe it to the pioneers that fought for civil rights in this country, to be in the position of privilege we are in today,” she added. Led by Sashi Konidena, President of the Houston chapter raised over $12,000 this past year.

The Southern California chapter began in late 2019 and has already presented $5000 to the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD). Close to 50% of the students enrolled in the LACCD fall below the poverty line.

School supplies: More than 10,000 backpacks have been assembled adn given to local ISDs

Giving back is a metric of success for any individual or community, and it’s a great reinforcement of an immigrant population’s gratitude.

Karthik Pichai, a serial entrepreneur, helped start the Dallas chapter in 2019 and has already raised $10,000 for Dallas Community College. He is rallying successful entrepreneurs not just to give, but also potentially train the students in their tech companies. “I want to bring together affluent entrepreneurs with shared values. Along with our Indian American kids, we can set an example saying that we care about our local community and want to give back,” he says.

Teri Benge, who was pursuing a degree in hospitality management at ACC, while keeping a full-time job, writes in her thank you note to HC4A that, “I will always remember this gesture of kindness and will one day, pay this forward by helping students achieve their goals, just as you have helped me.”

Harish Kotecha, founder, HC4A

As HC4A volunteers celebrate 10 years of relentless hard work, at the Asian American Resource Center, Austin, none are ready to just sit on their laurels. They laugh and cheer on as they see a 2030 vision board of Shahrukh Khan and Jennifer Lopez coming for the Gala night celebrations and a fundraising goal of a 100 million dollars.

2019 was the biggest year for HC4A as they were successful in establishing an irrevocable endowment fund for scholarships. This year about $150,000 in fellowships will go to students of various ethnic communities. To Kotecha its important that the work continue beyond him, “If us go away, the charity goes away, the fund will still be there. Legacy of the charity and donors will remain,

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