Life & Style

How 90-year-old Latika Chakrabarty's 'potlis' became a hit on Instagram

90-year-old Latika Chakrabarty, an entrepreneur making bags in Mumbai, is giving millennials a run for their money with her own website, Insta account, and Facebook page to boot

Up-cycling is the new buzzword among millenials. But in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, a nonagenarian has beaten hipsters at their game.

Latika Chakrabarty, looking regal in a crisp cotton sari, with her 65-year-old Usha sewing machine by her side, gives old saris, kurtas and materials a new lease of life, as potli bags. She explains, “Ladies of my generation were expected to have basic household skills such as knitting and stitching clothes, to cater to the family. My passion for sewing was born many years later only after the kids were grown up.” She has her own website to boot, created by her grandson Joy Chakravorty.

“I was home in 2018. Manna (as Latika is fondly called ) had been passing her time making potlis and had accumulated around a hundred-odd pieces. She gave them to friends and family. We felt that this work could give her a new lease of life, keep her mind and body occupied with something creative, and create a legacy for her. The goal was to create a presence online and share her story and her craft,” says Joy.

How 90-year-old Latika Chakrabarty's 'potlis' became a hit on Instagram

Each bag is fashioned out of silk, cotton, or mixed fabric, with hand-stitched embellishments. They are sold for $10 internationally or ₹700 within India. They are all given feminine names. For instance, the red and gold satin one with an inverted Superman-inspired motif, is called Shakti. Then, there are multiple iterations of Ragini, Kaira, and standalone pieces Falak, Himani, and Aaliya, all done with a keen eye for detail.

“We have customers from the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, France, UAE, to name a few. Some of her most ardent fans are in Brazil — her story went viral there and was covered by the two prominent newspapers in the country,” explains Joy.

How 90-year-old Latika Chakrabarty's 'potlis' became a hit on Instagram

So why use old kurtas and dress material? Latika muses, “I liked collecting old things which could be put to use later. About four years ago, my daughter-in-law asked me to make a potli bag to match her suit. I realised then I had a natural talent for making bags.” She adds, “I look at a piece of cloth and see the possibilities. I take my time, I don’t have to meet any deadlines. When the picture of the end product has been formed, I procure the accessories and other material and set about completing the bag.”

Born on the banks of the river Brahmaputra, at Dhubri, Assam, in 1930, Latika has fond memories of her growing years. “We belonged to a big family of 14 brothers and sisters. My daughters would joke that we were a football team with three extras.”

In her second year of college, Latika met her husband, Krishna Lal Chakrabarty , an Officer-Surveyor in the Survey of India. “I completed my education after I got married and my two daughters were born soon. On my 25th birthday, my husband presented me an Usha sewing machine. Every time I use it, I am reminded of him and his love and affection for me.”

The sewing machine doubles up as a time machine, transporting Latika to a time when she watched her children grow up, as she moved to Dehradun, lovingly tending to an orchard, filled with fruit trees like guava, mango, litchi, papaya, plum, jamun and bel.

“My daughters were married one after the other in the early Seventies. To augment our income, we started a school, but then, I fell sick and had to shelve that plan.

Following the death of my husband in 1981, I started living with my son, Raj, daughter-in-law Sumita and their son Joy,” states Latika.

Didibai, is another moniker that has happily attached itself to the senior entrepreneur. Latika adds, “I am happy with my loving family. I am a social person with friends of all ages.”

Latika is deft with not just the needle, but with the pen as well. She has dabbled in writing in both English and Bangla. Her book My Days at Foreshore Road was self- published in 2010. Now she blogs at latikasbags.com/blog.

Her Instagram handle is latikasbags; she also has a Facebook page.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 10:06:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/grannys-potlis-on-instagram/article30963072.ece

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