The month of March had not even ended and the heat already made its presence felt. I travelled to the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India. I stayed at the NIFT campus, located on the outskirts of the city, to take a few lectures on written communication and to hold a colour psychology workshop with Fashion Communication students at the centre. As much as I love teaching, or rather interacting with design students, the constant travel to different centres does take a toll on my health.
The dry heat of the “Land of Kings” was a new experience for me. As a child, I would travel with my family to see my sister in the town of Pilani in northeastern Rajasthan. These trips would usually be short affairs, mostly done during the cooler parts of the year when the BITS campus is quite green so you wouldn’t feel the heat as much. But during this visit, I experienced the mercury rise. Transitioning into summer at this place was not easy. And I am not talking about the Delhi heat problem. Delhi feels like paradise when compared to the moisture-sucking air of Rajasthan. My days were mostly spent in air conditioning, and my walking path was dictated by following shaded spots on the ground. For most of the time I was there, I wrapped muslin around my face, wishing it was always drenched in cold water to soothe my burning skin. Still, there was no escape from the relentless heat once I left the shelter protecting me. The trees, the people, the animals, the birds, all life seemed to be asking for mercy from the ironically life-giving Sun.
Only when dusk arrives can you breathe a sigh of relief. The merciless sun now takes a softer tone. The colour of the evening is a tangerine dusk. The hot air becomes kinder, morphing into a slow breeze. You close your eyes and feel your body relax along with the mood of the sky. You can finally sit outside in the open and watch the sun go down as the earth swallows it up. Everything seems slightly easier and you don’t have to take refuge under the shade any more.
You see why the culture of Rajasthan, or even Gujarat for that matter, is so bright and colourful, why the folk music has so much soul. Because the sun, which usually gives life, can also take life. Take the calmness of water away from the land and you are left with a feeling of lifelessness. I tried to compensate for this life-sucking heat by wearing a cotton shirt with a vintage print and wide collar, along with white denims. The cotton made me feel lighter and the print made me feel hopeful and light. People in this culture compensate for a desaturated landscape through using saturated colours. That is why vibrant colours and eclectic prints became such an important part of the Rajasthani culture. Clothing is a reaction to surrounding environments, and also an opportunity for people to express themselves amidst a landscape that can often feel oppressive and boring.
Photographs by Suryan Unni Joy.
Story by Sahdev Hooda.