India compromising on its culture: Pakistani designer

New Delhi: For outsiders, India is about its culture and tradition, but swanky malls, international labels, expensive cars and fast-food chains are taking away its true flavour, believes Pakistani designer Sahar Atif.

She, however, continues to love the country`s three Fs - food, fashion and freedom.

"Westernisation has brought malls, money, international chains to India. Today you name any top-notch brand and it is available in India. All my Indian friends are in awe of that and are relieved that they don`t have to go anywhere else," Sahar, who was in the capital recently to meet friends, told reporters in an interview.

"For any outsider, be it me or any foreign tourist, the India we know is when you promote `Incredible India`, that is what drags most of the tourists to India.

"For us, this city is not about malls and international chains, it is all about Lajpat Nagar, Janpath, Sarojini Nagar and Dilli Haat," added Sahar, a regular at the Pakistan Fashion Design Council Sunsilk Fashion week (PFDC-SFW). The 35-year-old has been coming to India for the past two decades to meet friends in the capital who are like her "extended family".

The designer says she has seen India when there used to be only "Marutis and sari-clad women on the streets." But now she misses the traditional flavour on the streets as the sari culture is more or less replaced by Western wardrobes.

"As a designer, I believe in culture, colour, and today it saddens me to say that no more do I see a young girl in a sari, an authentic Indian sari. I am not talking about wearing saris with spaghetti tops or wearing one in the Katrina Kaif or Kareena Kapoor style... I am talking about the real Indian sari," she said.

"What I see around is flip-flops, jeans and t-shirts, tank tops. It is a red alert for India. I feel you are making a huge compromise with culture, language, in this economic rush. What India is going through is a natural cause of any progression, but in this race, losing out on their strongest asset is painful," she added.

Another major change she has witnessed is that the national language, Hindi, is dying a slow death as children are being encouraged to speak in English.

"I agree in Pakistan we are lagging behind because of the political issues, but that doesn`t mean we give up on Urdu. Our kids at home are encouraged to speak in Urdu; they might go abroad for studies, but we don`t want them to follow things blindly," she said.

"If I was an Indian, I would have encouraged my kids to speak in Hindi," added the mother of two, who is often mistaken as a Kashmiri Muslim in the capital, the reason being she covers her head.

Having said that, Sahar, who launched her label Saai in 2002, is still in love with India.

"Coming here is very inspirational. Designers in India are constantly reinventing themselves and it, being an export- oriented market, is a boon for designers, unlike Pakistan where we face a lot of issues when it comes to getting fabric," she said.

"Here you get a lot of innovative fabric that can go straight on the ramp. Even the fabric you get on a `thela` (makeshift shop) is equally good.

"Also, the freedom to walk safely and enjoy life and good food is a boon for Dilliwalas," said Sahar.