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Regal renaissance: heart-to-heart with Rina Latif

Muslins, Jamdanis, tanchois, benarasis, zardozi, tapestry embroidery, all these are figments from the past, when royals ruled and nawabs and zaminders were like commoners plying the roads in their horse carts.

Their dresses were each a piece of art. Competition ran high as to who is the best-dressed royal, and artisans in those times embellished each dress with semi precious and precious stones, stitched them with gold thread or bordered them with intricate zardozi work to create a timeless classic piece.

However, the romantics that we all are, the grandiose and élan of the bygone eras make our hearts race and many of us want to re-create or recapture those flamboyant days and stylish times.

This is where fusion marries fashion because the past can never be the present, only the present can be blended a little with the past. And boutiques like Rina Latif allure us to dress like royals again.

Soft muslin in rich burgundy, moss green or Prussian blue bordered off with cutwork motifs, tapestry work, elaborate anchaals; heavy intricate zardozi work in ghararas with stylish halter blouses, flowing dupattas, exclusive hand painted muslins saris or kameezes, elegant jamdanis in modern motifs, jamadani fused with muslins or organzees are few of Latif's latest collection that she will be showcasing in Bridal shows in Dubai, Pakistan and India.

She takes pride in showing her country's treasures to the outside world, her work represents modern Dhaka that is equally rich in colour, accessories, and flamboyance as it was when muslins could be packed off in match boxes.

"I have designed a few pieces of exclusive jamdanis where I didn't use the old motifs. I absolutely designed new motifs myself and I will be taking them to my shows," says the designer Rina Latif, whose signature is her brand name.

"The right market is not here for such work so I go out to create markets for Bangladesh and its gorgeous silks, jamdanis, and muslins," Latif says, emphasizing that she is upholding the regal past of Bangladesh in a modern wrap.

"Many say that I buy stuff from India and tag them off as mine; if that would be the case I wouldn't call myself a designer but a merchant or something. Then there would be no need to employ so many artisans and run factories. I boldly say that India has nothing to do with my work, except for the fact that I use the international market as a platform to showcase my products, to create a market for Bangladesh," says the lady earnestly.

"Four of India's stores will carry my work and the technicalities of this deal are in process, but give me one good reason why they will do so if I am selling their products. They have such celebrity designers of their own," she point out matter-of-factly.

Elaborating on the fact that we share cultures to some extent and at one time it was our muslins that adorned their royalty, "Many people fail to recognize the fact that intricate zardozi work or cut work, appliqués or tapestry embroidery can be done here. To prove them wrong, my boutiques carry all these and much more. My work and my factory are a bold reply to their query of whether such gorgeous work is possible here in Bangladesh," she explains.

"I love Bibi Russell, Maheen Khan, Kumudini; all these brand names have their own style and all are different from each other adding variety to our profession, but the rest are tediously boring and copycats of each other. Being influenced is one thing and replicating is another," says the designer whose artistic self is evident in all her work.

Her place actually boasts some great collections and stunning bridal line which represent the age-old magnificent Bangladesh. The only difference is that here it is all draped in fusion and wrapped with modernism. Rina Latif in Gulshan is indeed a place for the suave and the stylish.

By Raffat Binte Rashid

Diary of a Food Obsessed Person

By Sam Q

Dearest diary,
Yes, I can tell that the Bangla New Year is just around the corner. There is a plethora of red and white saris and shalwar/kamizes in every shop window. Enough to make me see red…if you know what I mean. I wish the designers would be a bit more persnickety when it comes down to designing their stuff. Some are just gawd awful. Since most of the Bangalees are really making this occasion so sacrosanct, they might as well put some real effort into their work.

Actually some of them are! Let me tell you the innovative ones I found cute and corny.
1) A sweet shop had a shondesh which was half white and half red.
2)A beauty parlor was advertising to do the nails in half white and half red; they were calling it the French manicure with a Boishakhi twist.
3) A plastic mannequin was dressed from head to toe in red and white. What made her weird and different was, her hair was entwined with red and white ribbons, her bindi was sliced half in red and half in white. Her bangles were of course mixed up in red white and the worst was, she was wearing sandals, identical, but on one foot she was wearing a white sandal on one foot and a red one on the other foot. Before I could exhale, my sister dragged me away quite forcibly.
4) A flower shop had a banner up, saying anybody getting married on the 14th of April and using their flowers for the decoration of their car and "bashor raat", would get a red and white teddy bear pair…free. I just wanted to stop the car and ask, why on God's earth would anybody want a red and white teddy bear pair on their wedding night? And yes, I've seen white teddy bears, but red?? Maybe he meant red and white teddy, as in lingerie. Oh! What am I saying? A flower shop guy and a Victoria's secret teddy? I am losing my mind.

Anyway diary, don't you think I have seen enough to lose my mind? So, before I completely lose it, here are four recipes to make your "Pohela Boishakh" a bit more interesting.

Kumro Phool bhaja
Makes 24 fritters
24 pumpkin flowers
For the batter:
400 gm flour
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
½ tsp baking powder
Oil for frying
2 tsp black salt powder

Make a smooth thin batter with the flour, red chili powder, salt, ginger-garlic, baking powder and water. Wash the flowers carefully. Dip in batter and deep fry in hot oil. Sprinkle black salt on top of fritters.

Jumbo prawns with basil and
tamarind sauce

Serves 1
Preparation time 20 mins

200 gm jumbo prawns cleaned
100 gm tamarind sauce
30 ml chicken stock
5 gm garlic, chopped
60 gm steamed rice
Few leaves of basil/ tulsi leaves
For the tamarind sauce
25 gm garlic cloves
25 gm shrimp paste
25 gm tamarind pulp
5 gm onion, chopped
A pinch of lemon grass
5 gm fish sauce
100 gm sugar

Clean the jumbo prawns and marinate with basil, salt, pepper and lime juice. To a hot pan add a little oil. Add prawns and stir fry. Check the seasoning. Cook it in a pan only. Re-heat the steamed rice. Arrange in the centre of a plate and place prawns in a triangular position. Pour the reheated sauce over. Garnish with freshly chopped lemon grass.
For the tamarind sauce
Mix all the ingredients together and cook till soft. Blend together and pass through a strainer. The sauce is ready to use.

Serves 7-8
Preparation time: 1 hour
300 gm channa
100 gm khoya
2-3 tbsp maida
2 tsp ghee
White oil for frying, as required
Sugar crystals(misri) and cardamom for filling
For the syrup
800 gm sugar

Prepare the sugar syrup by boiling 1 lt water with 800 gm of sugar. Rub maida and ghee together. Mash the channa well, and knead thoroughly adding the above maida and khoya till it becomes very smooth. A teaspoon of sugar can be added while kneading. Now make small balls from it inserting a mishri and a few seeds of cardamom in the middle.
Heat oil in the kadai and deep fry the balls carefully on slow heat. Drop them in prepared syrup and allow to soak.

Khasta Goja
Serves 10
Preparation time: 2 hrs
200 gm flour
4 tsp ghee
A pinch of salt
Oil for frying, as required
For the syrup
200 gm sugar
For the roll
50 gm flour, approx.
4 tsp ghee, approx.

make a syrup with sugar and 3 cups of water. Boil till it gets a three string consistency. Make a fairly stiff dough with flour, ghee, salt and water as required.
Divide it into 3-4 portions. Make a big roti with each portion. Spread some ghee over it and then sprinkle some flour and roll it up. Now cut the roll into about 1 inch slices and roll it up with the rolling pin to make the shape of a goja. Deep fry a few at a time in slow heat, until they are golden brown. Dip them in syrup for a minute and take out. The goja is ready to serve.


Pohela Boishakh-Celebrate in Colours
The country would soon be draped in red and white to hail the Bangla New Year. It is the perfect occasion to enjoy some happy hours among friends, families, Bangalee dishes and dresses. Plan your schedule ahead of time to avoid last-minute phone calls, shopping and cooking. If you have plans to pay a visit to Ramna Botomul this year, then wake up early in the morning, take a refreshing shower and start the day's preparations. To the men out there, please say no to shirts and trousers for a day. Choose white or any other light coloured cotton punjabi to enjoy the summer heat amongst music, good food and the Boishakhi merriment. If you want to take your children to Ramna along with you, remember to dress them in 100% cotton garments. Take ample water because the intense heat of the summer is bound to cause severe dehydration. The crowd is going to be big and boisterous; grab your children tightly and don't let them hang around alone. It is better if you take food from your home. Refrain from getting food from the park vendors because these foods are often cooked in germ-infested environments. Even if you buy food from vendors, make sure that they are cooked and put in clean pots and dishes. Besides, you can always carry your own food, take food in hot pots and remember to carry mats or bed sheets to add more comfort to your stay at the park. If you have planned for a party at your home, then remember to go for all the Bangalee dishes. To add serenity to your abode, put on some pure Bangalee soft music records on your stereo. Get some fresh flowers to decorate your dining table and the living room. You can also opt to hang around with friends on this festive occasion. Let the joy of Poila Boishakh rejuvenate us with pure Bangalee spirit.

By Wara Karim


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