I was introduced to Rekha at my friend's wedding in India a couple of years ago. It felt somewhat surreal because I have been her most ardent fan ever since I watched her films growing up in Nepal and India, which I expressed to her, as calmly as I possibly could. She was in absolute disbelief that a designer from New York would even know about her films, let alone her. Modest or flattered, I wasn't sure, but she was, think, pleasantly surprised and perhaps charmed - as my ego would've liked to believe it.
I felt she wasn't fully convinced how much her existence had affected mine from the time I was growing up till date. How her films, her songs, dances, her out of this world glamorous editorials, her personal story (that we as the public were allowed to consume) - one of grit and perseverance, and especially her transformation - not only was inspirational but was also an escape from my challenging times while growing up in schools in Nepal and India. As a kid who was always ostracised for being "different" in an all boys boarding school and similarly in the patriarchal society of Nepal and India I felt connected to her perhaps because of her courage to be different and do things differently. It deeply resonated with me.
So I tried to express all of this in that brief encounter with less sycophancy and more dee erence. She was moved, I think, yet not fully convinced. So I sang to her "dil cheez kya hai aap meri jaa ve," a line from one of my favourite films of hers, "UmaraoJaan". She looked at me in absolute disbelief, hugged me and graciously said "thank you". I left her there. Elated, emotional and grateful.
A couple of days later, at an another event at the same wedding, she saw me again and waved at me. I went up to her to pay my respect and here is what she said (and I am paraphrasing):
"I was so touched by your words when we met that I went back and did some research on you. You are so talented, your work is absolutely beautiful, I loved it. However, not only is your work beautiful but what you stand for, how you use your voice, what you speak about and for whom, is so inspiring. The work you do through your foundation is wonderful. But what really resonated with me was the way you describe your woman. The way you describe her in your interviews, with detail, precision, love and respect, it resonated with me so much. It is me, it felt like you were describing me. Every thing that you said, about femininity with a bite, about the art of dressing up, getting ready - that moment of transformation- is truly a moment of self care, it described me all the way. It really did. So thank you".
Now, it was my turn to stare at her in disbelief. I was completely taken aback and so grateful for the time and effort she had put in researching my work, who I was and what I stood for. It's quite rare that moments like these happen. I get celebrated and complimented for the work I have created on the runway and for people's consumption. But it's quite rare that someone sees me beyond my work, deep into my heart and soul, and it resonates with them.
That moment was surreal and beyond, for it felt like a true full circle moment. Here I was, standing in front of an immense creative force who through her work had not only inspired me but had given me the permission and perhaps the courage to dream and manifest a different reality than the one then, telling me she felt seen and connected with me through my own creations, my work... my words.
I will never forget how I felt in that particular moment - seen, validated, loved, calm, at peace with my past and grateful, immensely grateful. For I felt it was the universe's way of healing me.
It was Mother Earth and her magical way of speaking to me again, the way she always did while growing up, - you are just fine. You are worthy. You are enough. The world will catch up to you. And it felt like in some ways finally the world did.
So, you see that's the power of creativity and art, the creative forces and the artists. Through our work we tell stories and those stories validate people's existence and make people feel seen. Yes, we are story tellers and story tellers are healers.
Happy happy birthday to my forever diva, who truly made me understand the power that lies in being kind to yourself and loving yourself.
It is Bollywood diva Rekha is on top of my wish list. I would love to dress an amazing saree for Rekha. Dressing for incredible women would be a dream come true. I have always thought Rekha looked so beautiful in her traditional sarees.