Jewel in the crown for the British, India for me, meant only Bombay; the city where I opened my eyes. Both Maa and Baba were Bombay-ites who migrated to Pakistan when I was three. Year after year Maa along with my siblings and I, spent our summer holidays in Bombay with her family. I got to meet and know loads of friends and colleagues of Baba but never his family. Apart from one of his dear cousin sisters, Boiya, who lived near our home in Juhu, most of his family lived in Merut, Aligarh and other cities in the north of India. Hasan, Baba’s cousin brother, along with his wife and daughters once visited us in Lahore in early eighties. Those were days of analogue correspondence, we hardly stayed in touch since that one meeting. In 2007 while researching my creative partners for 60×60 Secs, a one-minute film project I had initiated between India Pakistan and Britain, on my flight to Delhi I stumbled across Mehru, Hasan’s wife. We exchanged numbers and she insisted we meet. Thats when my discovery started in earnest. I had gathered my father was the odd one to have pursued his passion of cinema by going to Bombay. He established himself as S.T. Zaidi went on to become the associate director of K.Asif’s Moghul-e-Azam. In the midst of directing three other films, on the insistance of his brothers, he gave up being an Indian national and joined them across the border by migrating to Pakistan. Since 2007 I got to meet many of my father’s family and specially his endearing cousins, the Zaidi sisters. The three of them defied many norms and conventions… became writers, academics and activists. Their children, my cousins became doctors, poets, thespians, dancers and designers… creative in all sorts of ways. The jewel of this post is Soni Vir, my cousin Zoya’s daughter. She has been living in London for a long time and since we became friends some six years ago, I noted Soni always wore quirky jewellery. Silver charms garnished liberally within the gems and stones of bracelets and necklaces. Ritualistically playful trinkets -catholic, hindu, new agey and pagan all at once, I used to wonder where she bought them from. Turned out she makes them herself!
While photographing for her folio, I asked of her inspirations. Relentlessly creating these objects of fun, beauty and adornment, her range is called Chandi Jewellery. “Being Indian, I am predisposed to a fascination for jewellery. I have always adored wearing it, receiving it, gifting it, gazing at it through shop windows in rapt admiration and a few years ago, I fell passionately in love with making it. I love working with Chandi, ‘silver’ in Hindi – it is a lyrical substance. Silver can be subtle, subdued, muted or vibrant and extravagant depending on how it is paired up, treated and used in jewellery; I also love its universality. Semi-precious stones are so tactile, exquisite in their colours, textures, perfections and imperfections alike that the possibilities they offer are limitless. Silver has the ability to balance these elements beautifully.”
Soni’s inspirations are Nature – flowers, leaves, animals, birds, river beds, coastlines, caves etc. Art and Architecture. The colours, textures, feel etc of semi-precious stones themselves – “there’s so much depth to them often I loose myself gazing in to them.”
If kept away from your beads, gems and pliers and pearls – what else might you create? “As much as I admire art and would like to be an artist, I have an inherent inability to produce anything other than horror on a canvas or page. Making jewellery gives me the ability to bring the images in my head to life. I make jewellery for fun; find it therapeutic, relaxing, enthralling, all encompassing at times.”
When making the jewellery, who do you have in mind? Her eyes lit up, “Me, myself!” she said.
Sweet and simple… something we so often forget in the anxiety to please others. Long live the bling within us that seeks our nurture.
A big thanks to friends and neighbours who patiently let me style and photograph them. Soni is creating special jewellery in exchange of their generosity and time.