After chronicling his beloved Goa’s costume tradition, Wendell Rodricks is back with “The Green Room”, the story of his life, fashion, and other passions
In his just-released autobiography, The Green Room (Rain Tree), there are several voices Wendell Rodricks speaks through — a Goan child with a complicated family tree of quirks and anecdotes; a traveller who is as mesmerised by Paris’ Musee d’Orsay as the Turkish countryside; a gourmet who tells you why he prefers Alain Chapel to nouvelle cuisine’s Paul Bocuse any day; a Goan who, without plan, starts championing the cause of his State (through clothes and other things); a friend who doesn’t mind going the extra mile… Rodricks, however, is at his compelling best writing about what he’s known to do well — clothes.
From an interesting prologue that takes you to the scene the book’s title evokes, it’s a rewind to his childhood in the 1960s and a play forward to the present. A story of his own beginnings, the book, in the latter half especially, becomes a simultaneous narration of a fledgling fashion industry with its stumbles and successes — of people and events and the larger context.
As Rodricks explains, “When I wrote The Green Room, the basic premise was to be truthful about the journey; my journey and that of the industry. I wrote without malice and was very certain that I did not want to comment on people’s lives that did not touch my life and work. I am a crazed foodie, an ardent traveller, a bon vivant and a firm believer that each day on this planet is fabulous as a learning and inspiring experience. I have lived a rich, wonderful varied life. I wanted to share the fact that if I could make it, anyone with talent could!”
The Green Room follows close on the heels of his book on the costume tradition of Goa, Moda Goa, which released early this year. In The Green Room, while there are occasional references to controversies and cat fights, most are dealt with in a passing mention. Writing about an industry of which he’s still an active part, was there a fear of ruffling feathers at the back of his mind?
“Throughout the book, I was very keen to tell a story of inspiration. Though I know a lot about this industry and the people involved, I did not want to hurt anyone, break a reputation or a marriage. I stayed the course to tell my story as truthfully as I could. As for ruffling feathers, everyone in the industry knows I am the most unaffected, chilled-out person. I am a true Goan. I live life without stress. Ruffling feathers would be a stressful write for someone like me,” Rodricks replies.
About the said “inspiration”, there are revealing insights into the workings of a creative mind. Of seeds for garments found in the sails of Arab dhows that sailed from the Persian Gulf, the first taste of minimalism that, ironically, came on a bride’s dress, or an idea for drapes coming from the robes of Tibetan monks.
Rodricks credits most facts to a meticulous diary and an album of “every holiday and event” of his life he’s been maintaining the past 30 years. “So I had a written and photographic referral in place. I had to work on some parts like family history, but the write was very easy,” he says. The challenge, he says, was not to sound “like a bombastic, egoistical designer.”
Popular personalities from the Indian fashion industry walk through the pages, some in their heyday, many from their pre-fame days — Madhu Sapre, Jesse Randhawa, Atul Kasbekar, Freida Pinto, Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, and the young photographer Farrokh Chothia, with whom Rodricks went on to form a lasting professional relationship and whose photograph of muse Malaika Arora Khan in the 1997 “Mussel” outfit graces the book’s cover.
There’s more to come from Wendell Rodricks the writer — a book based on the basic understanding of the difference in how cloth is cut here and in the West. Rodricks has already done a collection called “Cutting on Squares” based on the “grid formula” that master cutters here employ.
“I am applying for a Fulbright scholarship, so I have the time and space in 2013 to teach American students — I learnt there and it will be interesting to see an international perspective to my cutting formula — and write a book on how Indian master cutters cut. I think it will change the syllabus of many colleges around the world because we Indians cut clothes with an inborn sense of geometry. It is very simple, yet complex. Cutting in Squares will be a textbook India and the world will be happy with. Indian students, in particular, will not be afraid to cut their own clothes,” Rodricks informs us.