Harper's Bazaar June 2018 - Page 78

ACCESSORIES Bazaar Rabari people of Gujarat, with their perfect form and proportions, simple, geometric lines, and modern appeal. The duo, who met in college, started working together in 1978, freshly armed with graduate degrees in ancient Indian history. They began their business as travelling merchants, sourcing unique items often made by award-winning artisans in and around Jaipur, and selling them in Delhi and Agra. Fuelled by a deep passion for their work, and with help from their eager clients in government emporia and cottage industries, who consistently bought from them and offered new ideas, their portfolio increased rather rapidly to include items in wood, sandalwood, and ivory. By 1981, Arora and Ajmera had enough funds to open a store in Delhi’s Chameliwala Market. They named it Amrapali after a royal courtesan from ancient India, whose beauty was famed far and wide. Renouncing her life as a dancer and surrendering herself to serving the poor and the needy, Amrapali was the first female disciple in Lord Buddha’s sect. An icon of beauty, ability, and character, they always wanted to name their business after her. It was around that time that many of their textile suppliers, who travelled from the interiors of the country, started bringing bits and pieces of tribal silver jewellery. Arora and Ajmera bought these fragmented pieces and restrung it themselves on ordinary silver wires, fashioning them into earrings, pendants, or other designs. The store was a big hit, as the jewellery attracted a loyal clientele from the diplomatic enclave, as well as leading movie stars of the time like Dimple Kapadia, Reena Roy, and Kirron Kher. Arora and Ajmera look delighted as they trace their journey from those adventurous days, when they would spend a couple of days every week driving around the country in Arora’s trusty Maruti 800, much like the backpacking hippies who were their early clients. Scouring the length and breadth of the nation, often passing by gold refineries to intercept villagers who were on their way to melt their gold ornaments for money, they began building an incredible archive, laying the foundation for Amrapali Museum. Decades later, the bright-eyed pair remain partners in business and intention, completing each other’s sentences and sharing an incredible camaraderie. The museum’s collection will remain dynamic, as they continue to find interesting pieces to add to it. Guided by the philosophy of “learning, earning, and returning”, they are set to open a design school in Jaipur by the end of this year based on the interactive and ancient gurukul model, bringing their signature passion and hard work to the project. Arora and Ajmera are focused on their goal of making it the best design school in the country within the next five years. n (From top) Gun powder flask from Gujarat; accessories for the preparation of a betel leaf; dastband almas (gold anklet) from Hyderabad; thuria (earplugs) from Assam. 78 By Arundhati De-Sheth