It was raining as I wandered past Harrods on the Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London three days before Christmas. The streets were bustling with shoppers looking for last minute presents. I was on a mission, to see an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum called The Fabric of India. I’m rarely in London these days and if I don’t catch the exhibtion today I will miss it. Indian textiles have been my passion since setting up my yoga bag business Om Padma nearly 10 years ago. Dodging puddles on the pavement and collar set to the drizzle in my face, I spring up the wide stone steps to the museum and through the rotating door.
Awe and reverence abounds as I step out of the revolving door into the entrance hall of the V&A. Like a magpie, I am drawn to the colours, sparkles, textiles and designs that this museum holds. Looking at the floor plan for the exhibition space I am drawn to so many different rooms: on show today are Mughal Jewellery, Shoes, Fabrics. Eyes forward as I pass through the shop, I could lose an afternoon lost in books in the shop. I am here to see Fabrics.
Entering the exhibition space I am reminded of the Anouki Havali just outside Jaipur in Rajasthan India which houses the museum of print and textiles. A display case of natural dyes, indigo, vermillion, turmeric greets me. The next case explains the origin of natural fibres, the cotton plant and silk cocoon. All beautifully presented but nothing new. Next different printing and dying methods, block printing, dip dying, methods of creating intricate and beautiful patterns on the fabrics. Delicately sewn clothes, bed spreads, hunting tents incredible examples of skill and accomplishment. Somehow I couldn’t escape the feeling I had seen it all before in my many visits to India over the previous two decades.
I turned the corner into the final room of the show and there it was, exactly what I came for. I stared in disbelief as I read an account of how the cotton factories of Lancashire had destroyed the cotton textile industry of India. Opposite the info board was a film clip of Gandhi playing on loop with a voice over describing how Gandhi had advocated home spin for home rule. It was one of those moments where planets collide and a new dimension opens. My ancestors had owned cotton mills in Lancashire, seven generations ago. I understood my calling to go to India and to work with textiles as a piece of ancestral karma. And with that something completed.
I had been waiting to receive the final piece to finish my book on Om Padma yoga bags and here it was. A Jewel in the Lotus at Fabric of India.