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Courting new designs

Getting justice in court was not the end of her women clients' misery, so she turned to chikankari.



Rekha Mohan... From courtroom to designer's studio.

SHE IS a lawyer-turned-designer who devotes her skills to preserve the rich authentic tradition of Lucknowi chikankari, the famous embroidery of the region. The craft is also a vehicle to provide a means of subsistence to women who might otherwise have lived in deprivation and destitution.

She is Rekha Mohan, a law graduate from Lucknow University. Fighting for the rights of women in the Lucknow courts, she realised that justice in court was not the end of the women's misery and started looking for a long-term solution.

"I found that chikankari was the traditional means of survival and livelihood of these women, which like them was suffering neglect. So I made an effort to put life in both of them," says Rekha.

The native crafts people did not have much idea about the latest trends. They were still restricted to the ancient designs introduced by Noor Jahan, explains the designer.

"The tradition was on the verge of extinction, and nobody was taking note of it. Besides, there was no means left for the traditional crafts people to keep body and soul together. They needed financial stability and assistance to work," she recounts.

Today Rekha nurtures the art under the umbrella of her NGO Pakhi, which provides employment to about 3,000 destitute women and their families.

"Shaping my concept was not a very easy task. It required a lot of homework," recalls Rekha. "I had to learn a lot of things about chikankari. In due course I learned the 31 stitches of chikankari, the art of colour combination and choosing different threads and fabrics."

Saris designed by Rekha are priced from Rs.15,000 to 25,000 and a significant part of her earnings goes to finance the school for poor children she runs in Lucknow.

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