Two enterprises support the existence of pockets of Gujaratiness in Coimbatore, more so during Navratri when colourful costumes and the beats of Dandiya fill the air

VIVIDESIGNS

The mood is festive at Vandana Kothari’s home where she also runs her boutique, Vividesigns. Her living room buzzes with women who have dropped in for their Navratri shopping. The evenings are busy, says Vandana as she spreads out saris in varied hues and designs for the ladies to see. “Oohs” and “aahs” fill the air when Vandana spreads out her collection of cotton and silk bandhini saris, and those with patchwork.

Colourful chaniya cholis and kedias with elaborate mirror work are her collection’s highlights. The prices depend on the size. “The attires for young children fall between Rs.200 and Rs. 300. The medium-sized ones are priced above Rs. 500 and the free-sized attires are priced above Rs.1000,”says Vandana.

The chunky, oxidised jewellery completes the dandiya look. While a few prefer to go simple with one or two bangles, many wear bangles right from their wrists to half way up their arms. “I have white and black metal and copper bangles, kadas and armlets. The neckpieces, featuring stones and beads, are priced from Rs. 60.”

Her wall hangings, and pooja rangoli and aarti sets have big takers in the city. The garba pot is very important to the pooja sessions during Navratri, she explains. “During these nine days, every Gujarati family acquires one.”

Vandana sources her wares from different parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan such as Kutch, Rajkot, Jaipur, Surat and Baroda. “Every year, I make a trip there to stock up. I also make sure that I get materials and accessories, featuring the latest fashion.”

Many of her customers are friends and relatives. “You do not feel you are shopping when you come here. It feels personal,” they say. Moreover, this is an occasion to build bonds, adds Vandana.

Vandana, who has been doing business from her home for the past 20 years, says she prefers this over running a shop. “This way, I can manage home and do my business at the same time.”

Apart from Navratri specials, Vandana’s collection also includes silk and cotton saris, bed sheets, salwar sets and night wears which feature hand embroidery, appliqué embroidery and patchworks.

These are available throughout the year from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4.30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For details, call 94435-65790.

GUJARAT STORES

Large packets of branded bakarwadi, nylon sev, teekha gathiya, soya sticks, khakra, potato fritters and bajra atta crowd the shelves at Gujarat Stores on Mettupalayam Road. Within days, a new batch will take their place. That’s how popular these snacks are in Coimbatore, home to a huge Gujarati population.

The store in North Coimbatore, run by Simpal A. Raichura, celebrates everything Gujarati — handicrafts, gift articles, imitation jewellery, papads, khakhras and even regular grocery items typical of Gujarati cuisine. It has a steady stream of people through the year, but Navratri is when everything perks up.

As we look around the store, overflowing with cartons holding Navratri goodies, a lady walks in with her daughter to rent a dandiya outfit. “This works out better than purchase; where do we get to wear this on a regular basis?” asks Simpal. She also has elaborate but inexpensive accessories to go with the dresses.

In the handicrafts section, she stocks a range of torans, Navratri return gifts (including a cute bead-covered kumkum box for Rs. 25), silver-and-gold bullock carts, and other traditional artefacts.

Simpal’s husband Anish grew up in Coimbatore. “For me, snacks mean murukku or mixture. But those who moved to the city in the last decade or so still crave Gujarati snacks and spices, and particular brands at that,” he says.

The store eventually hopes to be a one-stop shop for the average Gujarati homemaker. From ready-made falooda mix to methi seeds to whole betelnut (vital for the puja) and roasted tamarind seeds, Simpal stocks them all.

“I source the groceries from Gujarat simply because they taste different from what you get here. And, people are used to a certain taste.” She even orders a year’s supply of groceries for some people.

Call her on: 99945-83124.