Saturday, October 18, 2003

Alpanaís jewellery goes beyond the predictable
Humra Quraishi

Alpana GujralALPANA Gujralís father ó the famous artist Satish Gujral ó writes about his daughters in his autobiography A Brush With Life: "Unlike Mohit, my daughters Alpana and Raseel inherited all my characteristics to the fullest degree.It was perhaps due to this that they had more than their share of misfortune. Both married men of their choice. Both their marriages failed, despite the fact that the husbands they had chosen were absolute gentlemen. The one thing both men lacked was an interest in art, to which both the girls were committed. Though neither Raseel nor Alpana had chosen a creative curriculum in school and college, the seed of creativity that they had suppressed or neglected, flowered within them later, when they found their marriages devoid of purpose or meaning. When they filed for divorce, both Kiran and I were very upset. Then we realised their compulsions, and offered our unconditional support. We were proud of their resilience and determination to work towards independent goals. Raseel achieved renown as an interior designer and Alpana as a furniture designer. Like their father, neither has had formal training in their respective disciplines yet they have through hard work and the sustained effort of their strong imagination won acclaim and wide professional respect."

Yes, Alpana works quietly and almost shuns publicity. Thereís a particular incident that I cannot erase from my mind. A couple of years ago her parents - Satish and Kiran Gujral - had invited over friends for dinner and somehow sneaked in a Page-Three photographer attached to a leading publication. When Alpana spotted him, she gave him a severe verbal thrashing. We, the guests, were left both stunned and impressed. For, in a city like Delhi where people survive on publicity, this young woman was stressing that she detested promotion of this kind, and wanted to make it to the top with sheer hard work and focus. Starting off as an interior designer with special focus on furniture, today she is better known as a jewellery designer. And if you ask her why this shift from interiors to jewellery, she gives her reasons: "Creativity knows no bounds. It is fluid. It is seamless. It has the intensity to flow from one realm to another with innate ease. I have always been interested in creating new stuff and looking beyond the predictable. In fact, for years I had been designing and making jewellery for the family and for close friends. So if you take that into account, my foray into jewellery designing isnít new; itís just that now I have been focusing more on it. Now thereís market for it. Most jewellery outlets provide traditional sort of jewellery and people have had enough of it."

To find out whatís new about Alpanaís designer jewellery, I went to her studio-cum-workplace at her parentís home, where she stays with her two teenaged sons. She was so busy talking to a client ó a middle-aged woman picking up jewellery for her daughterís trousseau ó that she told me that she wouldnít be able to give an interview. So the talk got postponed by a day. With the same streak of professionalism, she declines to give names of her clients. This is what she had to say about her designer jewellery, whose each item is unique. "It takes me about four to five months to make one piece - I design it and then it is made by craftsmen in Jaipur. For that I make weekly trips to Jaipur. I do not consult any catalogues. Itís all from my mind and you could say my jewellery is a contemporary version of the traditional jewellery. I re-craft traditional polkis, kundans and uncuts into a more linear and modern design."

On the pitfalls and stress involved in this profession, she is quick to point out: "Every profession throws up different stress levels. What really matters is your attitude and you do acquire a certain level of patience over a period of time. One has learnt to deal with it and I tell myself it canít get worse. To ward off stress, I read a lot and listen to music."

When you ask what she feels about being Satish Gujralís daughter, she replies with a distinct tinge of happiness in her voice: "I have learnt so much from my father`85 we had a wonderful childhood, free from hassles. Though my father himself went through a lot of turmoil and upheavals in his life, he gave us a secure and happy childhood and was always there for us."