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Simple food, classic designs

At home, we always enjoyed ghar ka makkhan. Food is worshipped and the kitchen is considered a temple.

Raghavendra Rathore enjoys his meal at The Marriot's Dakshin restaurant in New Delhi. Photos: S. Arneja.

IN AN industry where reality is a rarity and vanity is the vision, designer Raghavendra Rathore comes across as an exception. Taking time out of the fitting session for his Sunday show at the Lakme India Fashion Week to have a quick bite at the Dakshin restaurant of the Marriot hotel, Rathore says, what you eat reflects what you are. And sweet lassi for an appetiser attests his statement.

Coming from the royal family of Jodhpur, Raghavendra's love for simple light food comes as a surprise. "This perception is a stigma. Royal families used to have a variety of opulent dishes for guests from different parts of the world. Today we are like any other Indian. We can't do away with the past, but I have never tried to ride piggyback on it."

Starting off with kozhi sukka, chicken tossed in a paste of coconut, chillies and grounded spices, Raghavendra reminisces, "At home, we always enjoyed ghar ka makkhan. Food is worshipped and the kitchen is considered a temple."

With an education in New York where he assisted Donna Karan and a profession where routine is not the rule, Raghavendra has devised his own. "When I work, we normally take South Indian food because it's light and easy to spread. We drink glassfuls of rasam with dosai. However, when models are there we order elaborate spreads like pastas and pizzas. I take dry fruits and lots of water as well to maintain the energy level. But yes, my mother is so obsessed with an apple a day theory, that she still keeps reminding me," quips Rathore tasting Iyer's dosai, special mini dosais with chutneys.

However, few people know Rathore designs chocolates as well. "When I visited Bikaner museum, I came to know that in the 1920s, ships carrying cocoa used to come to India. I felt it could be done now. So I introduced it as a boutique product using Malaysian cocoa, because it suits the Indian palate. The idea was to put it at places like Amar Vilas Palace and duty-free shops and market it. As you pay Rs.200 for a bouquet, which has a day's life, pay the same for chocolates. They have a week's life."

With kai stew in which vegetables are simmered in coconut milk and flavoured with onions, garlic and ginger for company, Rathore shares some technical details. "It is like selecting a perfume, where you select the right combination of cocoa and resin. It all depends on the placement of resin. One should feel the resin when one bites. I want the resin in the centre. Indian chocolates are too sweet because companies use less of cocoa."

Enjoying kozhi melagu curry, tender boneless chicken cubes simmered in peppercorn with curry in Dakshin's silver utensils, Rathore relishes the thought of silverware back home, compares it with the glassware and relates the two with his fashion appeal and proves that he has indeed dabbled with Plato's allegories. "I like to retain the basic classic touch and add the gloss suitably."

Known for his bandhgalas, this year Rathore is presenting linen bandhgalas for women. "These are like long shirts with bandhgala collars." For men, he predicts that with the choice of variety and prices in shoes available for men, the pants will continue to be slimmer and without pleats. "Baggy pants cover the shoes. Also, jackets and short kurtas are on their way out."

Even for models, he wants to keep things simple. "To me glamour means classic. Little dots on the forehead and kohl will do. I do not believe in tamasha on the runway. The emphasis should be on clothes." He is planning to put his choice, Mona Dutta on the ramp though she is not in the list of models chosen for the Week. "She has an international look and I feel she can carry my dresses the best."

Refusing to fall for badam halwa because of the hectic day ahead, Rathore shares he is expanding his presence in the Capital. "It's the golden age for fashion in the country. We are learning from our mistakes and the results are showing. Companies like Allen Solly and Peter England can no more fool people by sourcing shirts from backstreets of Ahmedabad and selling them at high prices, as designer wear would soon be available at competitive rates." And what's next? "Painting". Well, there is life after Sunday.


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