Yearly Archives: 2011

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2012

I started out on something just a year ago based on asking ‘why not’ instead of ‘why’, and what a journey that has led me on. I have met many interesting people, learnt a lot about running a trading business, spent time understanding what is important to me and been humbled by the unwavering support of my family and friends. And today a service provider to the company I previously worked for said to me ‘In a world where people tend to be “ruthless” to get on, you manage by being the opposite and working on the goodwill that generates. There is hope in this world of ours.’ I don’t know if he knows it but he made my day. I hope someone makes your day special. Merry Christmas and best wishes for the year ahead.

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The Carpets of Konya

Kilim Runner from Van, Turkey

Come, Come, Whoever you Are Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times Come, yet again, come, come.

Mevlana Rumi, Sufi Mystic and Poet whose tomb lies in Konya

And they did come … at the turn of the last millennium, travellers, traders, nomads, empires, swept into Iran and Anatolia from Central Asia and beyond.

Konya is one place they met and traded and settled right from the 11th century through to the 16th century.  The Seljuk Empire that dominated a huge swath of Eurasia during those centuries created a cultural melting pot that extended from Turkey to China. It was out of that melting pot, fuelled by continual exchange of commodities and ideas along the Silk Roads, that Konya, Bergama and other well known cities came into prominence and …

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Rattling Bones

Arastan at Mumbai Christmas Fest

I love Mumbai. Hot, dirty, far too many people but home and so efficient. We managed to pack a lot in: the Indo-German Christmas Fest that was exhausting with the 12 hours of standing each day but taught us lots about the Mumbai market, tracking down a ceramist that does interesting wall art, a meeting with our financial and tax advisors, a trip to the ‘you get everything you can possibly imagine and those bits you cannot’ Santa Cruz market and, of course, food! The old man on Pali Hill (he must be in his 70s now) still makes the best sev puri. Not so impressed by a rather more expensive Trishna.

We saw our financial advisors after the fair for a planning exercise. Vaibhav Manek is a partner in a firm called KNAV and does customer relationships like no other. If he wasn’t so good at what he does, I would …

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OWC Bazaar, Ahaan and Baale Mane

Orissa Hand-carved Stone Decoration

Serves me right for being upset with the dew in Delhi! It was raining when we woke up on the OWC Bazaar day and I had that sinking feeling that I had made no provision for waterproof covering (again!) However my mother, or rather her penchant for keeping what she calls ‘useful things’, saved the day. I had used plastic sheeting to put on the wet tables and clear plastic packaging to cover everything with, and managed to get set up and over the soggy mess we were met with. A good day, with lots of old faces – our first ever exhibition was the OWC Bazaar last year and it was nice to be back. The animal Christmas decorations were a big hit with kids and adults alike.

The next day could not have been more different. We were invited out by Yasmeen and Richard from Ahaan to a Christmas …

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Christmas is Coming…

Zardozi Christmas Bird

Doing a Christmas mela in Delhi proved an interesting experience. For security reasons we had to be in by 6:20am so there we were a bit cold and not quite awake and then had to wait till the dew dried up on our roof covering before setting up! The AWA team were great though and produced just about everything one had forgotten or not anticipated. The day went well although not as fantastic for us as the guy next door: his papier-mâché Christmas baubles were flying off the shelves, with his exaggeration on age/workmanship increasing as the day progressed.

Our own Indian Christmas decorations have arrived and we’ve been busy photographing and tagging them. Here is a sneak preview!

Each one is hand-embroidered, all done by an NGO that has managed to keep producing consistently high quality – a win-win for everyone. I love the zardozi embroidered baubles but …

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RainTree, Thailand and Karthik

© Jaipur Rugs

The exhibition went very well. I am an eternal optimist but it went better than even I predicted. In part the success was thanks to the Arastan ‘champions’ who spread the word, part to the work Anisha Chacko did on the exhibition collateral and to the fact that people who came liked what they saw enough to buy it. And we got some excellent learning not just of the exhibition but also on purchasing patterns. All noted and incorporated into our plans.

In my wanderings, I have come across many interesting businesses and people. One such company is Jaipur Rugs Company and we sell their contemporary carpets alongside the tribal ones. Jaipur has just received the India Pride award for social change in India. Well deserved as I think they do what they do very well. The Jaipur carpets proved very popular at the exhibition as did the Anatolian …

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Rediscovering the Silk Road

Silk Road map

The Silk Road was never one long road. Rather, it was a series of smaller land (and later, maritime) routes, which formed an intricate network between the Occident and the Orient. It linked Europe, India and the Far East via Central Asia. Take a look at this map, and you’ll see that Somalia, Thailand and even Indonesia were en route. For over one thousand years, these ancient pathways were the most important and best-known route in the world, transporting not just silk but all manner of exotic goods such as pepper, jade, glass, oranges, peaches, crossbows, gunpowder and rhubarb.

Who traversed these trails through deserts, mountains, steppes and seas? Not just merchants but monks, scholars, clerics, artists, armies, musicians, plunderers and nomads. Unlike what we imagine, people rarely travelled the entire journey. Instead, goods and ideas would change hands and minds, multiple times along the way, before reaching their final …

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Jewellery That Speaks

Niello Cross Pendant

The Berbers wear only silver. It has something to do with silver being the preferred metal of the prophet. Archival pictures show Berber women completely laden with the most unbelievable silver adornment. Today of course, these images are fewer thanks to the skyrocketing price of silver, but still, jewellery continues to be important, not just for its decorative value. It has protective symbolism, it is the family’s bank, to be melted and traded in lean times, bought and remade in good. The jewellery a woman wears is a symbol of her family’s status and wealth. So, interestingly, the woman and not the man is the family financier plus showpiece and bearer of its reputation.

Design of Berber jewellery is strongly influenced by the ancient Berber script, Tifinagh, based on which Berber languages are written. The characters in Tifinagh reflect a simple geometry of corners, circles, triangles and dots. This abstract …

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Intriguing Berbers

Young Berber woman

Everything about Morocco is intriguing… especially to someone like me who has never been there. The gorgeous tilework, the latticed windows, the tadelakt lamps, the tribal kilims… ahhhh, I want to go there…. Now!!!!!!!

So, when Nisha pulled out piece after piece of stunning Moroccan Berber jewellery, I couldn’t bear it any longer. If I wasn’t going to be on next flight to Marrakech, I had to get there by another route. Feeling quite like the Ibn Battuta of Richards Town, I set off instantly… up the High Atlas mountains and through the stark Sahara, to finally come face-to-face with chiseled Berber men and gorgeous women bedecked, from head to toe, in silver jewellery…. So ok, Battuta didn’t go out in search of Berbers, but he did leave Morocco and ended up travelling the silk routes for 33 years, on foot and horseback. That was Ibn and it was the …

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Arastan Exhibition at Raintree

Arastan at Raintree

If you are in Bangalore you may find one of these dropped in your mailbox in the next few days. If not, please join us anyway at RainTree on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th September for our first ever exhibition!

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  • Welcome to Arastan

    Arastan was an online store that curated rare and handpicked treasures from exotic bazaars along the ancient silk route. Unfortunately we ceased trading in early 2014.

    You can read about the reasons for closure.

    You can still browse some of the products we used to have via the category links above, although none of these are available for purchase.

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