Joy Bimal Roy: "I had to be careful not to hurt anyone’s sentiments since the saris had memories..."

Joy Bimal Roy: "I had to be careful not to hurt anyone’s sentiments since the saris had memories..."

Joy Bimal Roy talks about how he started upcycling his mother and sister’s saris and ended up creating a one-of-its-kind enterprise

Roshmila BhattacharyaUpdated: Sunday, January 29, 2023, 12:05 PM IST
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Upcycled sari |

The year 2020 started on a low for Joy, filmmaker Bimal Roy’s entrepreneur son, who lost his elder sister Yashodhara on January 1. The production designer and costume designer of films like Drishti, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa and Takshak was always beautifully dressed. Family and friends jokingly asked her to leave them her fabulous collection of saris. “Mejdi would smile, but after her demise, my sister Aparajita and I decided to do just that,” shares Joy.

What they hadn’t realized was that there would be more takers than saris. So, after a while, Joy started salvaging borders and pallus, and sometimes the body, from discarded saris and mix-n’-matching them with other fabrics to create new saris. Locked in by Covid, he started to enjoy the experiment so much that when Yashodhara’s stock depleted, he started hunting through his late mother Manobina’s cupboards, then asking for donations. Soon, he had a pile of upcycled saris and decided to sell them to raise money for charity. “I set a target of Rs 1 lakh — earnings from these saris — which I hoped to donate to Shanti Avedna Sadan, a hospice on Bandra’s Mount Mary Road, that cares for terminally-ill cancer and AIDS patients for free, having lost my parents and several relatives to cancer,” informs Joy. He was delighted when Radhi Parekh, an NSD designer, agreed to showcase and sell the saris from her Artisans’ Centre in Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda. And ‘Touch of Joy’ was born.

Popularizing the concept was not easy, more so because no one he knew had upcycled saris before. That the enterprise was started during a pandemic made it doubly difficult because people had suddenly developed a phobia for what was not theirs. These saris have come out of old, discarded, second-hand stuff and sustainability has yet to take root in India. “I also had to be careful not to hurt anyone’s sentiments since the saris had memories woven into them while matching fabrics and colours in a way that was complimentary and didn’t give the impression of jigsaw puzzles,” he explains, admitting that despite the handicaps, he has managed to create around 250 saris of which 50 were given away and the rest sold.

Upcycled sari

Upcycled sari |

So, which sari challenged him the most? Joy immediately flashbacks to the one he sold first. The original, an expensive Benarasi sari, which had belonged to her mother, was a donation from archivist-restorer-filmmaker Shivendra Singh Dugarpur’s wife Teesha. “Nervously, I took it apart, using the purple and green border,  reconstructing the pallu which had disintegrated, on the body of one of my mother’s Tussar saris, which had butis in the same colours. I then teamed the magenta fabric of the body with an embellished border and pallu from another sari and created a second sari,” he recounts.     

Joy made his first sale when Malabika Das, from the KC Das family, picked up the first sari, which had come from the two mothers, after insisting on knowing its history.

Joy Bimal Roy

Joy Bimal Roy |

Recently, he was invited to Bengaluru by a friend for an exhibition and sold 18 saris in two days. “Almost by accident, thanks to my mother and sister’s blessings, and I know they are up there somewhere smiling down at me, I have found a calling which is creatively fulfilling and brings me a lot of joy. What is particularly heartwarming is that I recently donated the Rs 1 lakh I had pledged to Shanti Avedna Sadan, along with Rs 13, 200 which came from a Facebook friend who had bought one of my saris for that amount and donated exact same sum to my charity when he learnt about it,” Joy beams.

 So, what’s the next plan of action? “I would like to travel with my saris across the country, maybe have one of those trunk sales in the US before Durga Puja next year given that NRIs love getting all dressed up in saris for such occasions. I’ve never been big on plans. I go with the flow. For now, it is enough that maa and mejdi’s memories, and that of so many other friends and family, live on through these saris,” he signs off.

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