The Magic of Moorjani
The majestic city of Jaipur is the capital of the state of Rajasthan, India. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, after whom it was named, founded it in 1727, and Conde Nast calls it “India’s capital of adornment, where there are gems the size of eggs and silks in hues of unimaginable hotness.”
Some of us may never get the opportunity to see this city’s exotic beauty in person, but we can certainly find some of its treasures right here in Trinidad at the House of Jaipur, Dhisha Moorjani’s labour of love for the homeland of her parents. Dhisha opened her store 10 years ago, after selling out of her living room for two years prior, but her love of Jaipur was instilled in her since early childhood by her parents.
They migrated to Trinidad from Jaipur when her father was hired to work at Kirpalani’s, and it was her mother especially, originally from Mumbai herself, who made sure that her children, Dhisha and her younger sister Renuka, were deeply versed in their ancestral culture. She spoke only Sindhi in the house, and both Dhisha and her sister still speak the language fluently.
As most young people, the teenage Dhisha didn’t have the same appreciation for her roots as she does now. With a somewhat rueful smile she recalls instances when she would be mortified to see her mother walk into a PTA meeting at St Joseph’s Convent in San Fernando, or turn up to collect her from a party with her friends, dressed in a sari. She would plead with her mother to “please wear a dress or a pair of trousers and shirt like the other mothers.” As she began to travel in her job as a flight attendant with BWIA, awareness of the value of one’s own unique heritage dawned, and inspired in her a great pride in her parents’ unwavering commitment to ensuring that their children knew theirs. It was that same pride that sparked her desire to do something to honour and preserve the ancestry of her parents.
Her father’s sudden passing was the final push that saw the birth of the House of Jaipur, a showcase for the timeless beauty and culture of the place where he was born. She wanted people to see the incredible and intricate works of art that India’s skilled artists and artisans were capable of creating, and not just the ‘trade fair’ goods and wares that they were accustomed to seeing. She started the business with all of her savings, designed the entire store herself, travelled to India (where she found herself very grateful that she was able to speak the language) to personally select every item, and ran the store while still fully committed to her job with BWIA. There is nothing about the store’s day-to-day operation that she does not know or has not done herself. Even though she now has a full staff and no longer has to do everything herself, she is still very hands-on in the business and beloved by her staff.
Dhisha never opened another branch of her store, despite the opportunity, means and many requests to do so, simply because she wants to make sure that she never loses that personal touch and is always accessible to her clients. As she puts it, she doesn’t just sell material things at House of Jaipur, she sells ‘an experience.’ Dhisha is constantly challenging herself, always exploring new possibilities and avenues for sharing ‘the experience’. She facilitated ‘sari workshops’ to teach the proper way to wrap the lustrous silk garments when she realized how many of the women who bought them always needed help when it came time to wear them. The immensely successful charity fashion show ‘Bombay Dreams’, now in its third year, is also her brainchild. Together with the expertise and flair of dear friend Brian McFarlane, it brought together for the first time four indigenous fashion powerhouses to create and showcase their own version of “ethnic wear”, and is now a highly anticipated event.
It is that very drive to constantly explore unchartered territory that has brought her to the exciting new threshold upon which she now stands. She explains: “In Trinidad we are so lucky that we can celebrate everyone's culture and religion so freely. I think we take this for granted. I am always trying to incorporate fusion in everything that I do. I am product of what I believe in. I consider myself a Trinidadian, as I was born here and grew up here, but at the same time I fully embrace the heritage that was bestowed upon me”. After investing a year into researching every detail, she was convinced that there was a very fertile market for apparel that reflected that belief, i.e., a blending of East Indian exoticism with a lighter, more billowy Caribbean feel. Her mind made up, she dove head first into designing and creating her own ethnic-inspired line, House of Jaipur Resort Wear, thereby creating another facet of the fusion that she is so proud of.
She will be creating another ‘first’ for the local history books when she officially launches the line at the 2013 Trade & Investment Convention taking place in June, complete with a full-scale fashion show for potential buyers, as it will be the first time the fashion industry is represented there. Her life has certainly had its fair share of difficult moments. After losing her beloved father before he could see her loving tribute to him, a year and a half ago she also lost her greatest cheerleader, the mother who unabashedly showed her immense pride in even the smallest of her achievements, who showered her with blessings and wisdom every step of the way, and who Dhisha credits with the mantra she now lives by: be positive, think positive, surround yourself with positive people and positive things will happen to you.
She continues to further honour her parents’ legacy through her association with two NGOs in Mumbai that are working to ‘redefine the capabilities of the developmentally challenged’. She explains that when differently-abled individuals are unable to adjust in other special institutes, either due to severe behavioral disorders, the need for constant attention or even age, they are usually left at home unoccupied and idle, and depression or aggravated psychological problems are common. These two organisations provide vocational training to such students with a view to keeping them occupied through creative work. Using colour and music as therapeutic measures, the organisations also provide a platform to explore the potential and talent of these specially gifted individuals and the sale of their creations provide not just self-pride but also critical self-employment. She herself carries some of the beautiful pieces created by the students in the store for sale.
All this from the girl who once cringed to see her mother in a sari, now creating an unforgettable experience of the intrinsic, exotic beauty of East Indian culture and apparel.