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Feeling connected

Desi is not another shopping outlet. It embodies rural self-sustenance.

Desi has the ambience of a traditional Indian home . — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

WHEN A Kannada Sangha in Sydney or Chicago has a programme, members often turn out in ethnic gear. In most cases a simple, cotton kurta-pyjama from Desi, the charming little shop in South Bangalore. "Earlier, we used to get stray customers. Now, anyone who wants to look `Indian' comes to get things from here," says an official of the outlet. NRIs and Indians with foreign friends invariably turn up at the shop and don't stop till at least half a dozen paper bags are filled to busting point!

Desi is not just another shopping place. The kind of stuff that Desi stocks, gives you a strong sense of belonging. While the name brings up images of khadi jubbas, cotton dhotis, and hand-spun sarees from rural India, Desi is more than just a shop selling local products. Desi stands for Developing Ecologically Sustainable Industries, and has transformed the life of hundreds of rural people in the scenic Heggodu, Shimoga District. Founded by theatre person Prasanna and his friends, Desi markets the products made by members of Charaka, the co-operative that that he helped to set up.

The women of Bimanakote make the cotton fabric, paper products, and other items designed by Desi's team of professionals, and Desi buys back the products from them.

"Desi is almost like a Noah's Ark. It might preserve certain traditions but I do not think it will radically change the economic base of this country. I am doing it to at least save those few weavers and provide them a decent Rs. 60 or 70 a day," said Prasanna in an interview to The Hindu some time back.

Why do people like the famous Kannada novelist U.R. Ananthamurthy, cine actor Srinath, Ananth Kumar, MP, and several others keep going back to Desi? I can't answer for them, but I go back because the place has the ambience of a well-run traditional Indian home. The hand-made jewellery, lifestyle products, stationery, terracotta, and art works also appease my civic conscience which starts screeching every time I enter a big shopping place with overly made-up sales assistants and perfumed air. That the products are comfortably priced at Desi makes it even more attractive. And when guests fly in from over the seas, a visit to this home-turned-store gives them the stuff that nostalgia is made of.

Be it the neat Udupi saris or the new stock of Andhra Dastkar sarees, the comfortable and trendy kurtas or the smart terracotta jewellery, handloom durries or sturdy bedspreads, the pickles and papads or the vermicompost that cajoles you to start a pesticide-free kitchen garden, the products at Desi give you sense of being rooted. If being Indian means being comfortable with our modest means and honest labour, then Desi, bereft of gloss and hype, is proudly Indian.

Desi is at 27, Patalamma Temple Street, Near South End Circle, Basavangudi, Bangalore 560004 You can call 6676669 or fax 6524082


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