A WEAVER OF HERITAGE, CULTURE AND FASHION, UMANG HUTHEESING SHOWS THE PATH TO SELF-RELIANCE

Posted: October 30, 2011 in Interview, The NamoLeague Times
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How does it feel like to be a part of ‘The Hutheesing Family’?
With every privilege, comes responsibility. Therefore, when you hold a powerful legacy or are a member of such a family, it is a huge responsibility. This is because of not only people’s expectations, but also your own code of conduct. For e.g. If everybody is highly educated in your family, you need to maintain those standards. Hutheesing family has over the years, earned a lot of money and even spent and donated it well. Now, to donate, you need to earn and be wealthy. This in itself is a pressure! And wealth is not only about money. Education is wealth, respect is wealth and achievements are also wealth. I think it is a privilege for anyone to be born in a good family. There is nothing like a bad family, though! But by the term ‘good’ Imean ‘historic’. And when Hutheesing family has done immense work for the city, it is our duty to take it forward. And very often, this may even take a priority over your lifestyle or your own self!

True. You studied science and banking. So was this one of the reasons for the switch to this field?
Yes I have studied business & marketing from America and then studied banking at Japan. I am not an art student. I have inherited the institutes that I run. The institutes are mainly involved with art, culture, heritage and other historical activities. But what people forget is that even art &culture, hospitals, religious trusts – all require management. There should be accounts on the income and expenditure of the money, a legal structure and many other aspects have to be looked after.

How do these institutes differ from each other? (The Hutheesing Foundation, Hutheesing Art Gallery, Hutheesing Trust)

  • You must have heard of the ‘Maslow’s Law of Hierarchy’. It talks about the five basic human needs viz. food, procreation, clothing, housing and finally it comes to ego. Now, I have crafted five different abstracts that are perhaps ‘My Laws of Hierarchy’ and this is how I believe our society functions.
  • The first thing that any human being needs is HOPE. More than food, we need hope. If we have hope, we will live another day. But if we don’t have it, all our motivation will be lost. And who gives us hope? God gives us hope! Even a person who says he is an atheist, a non-believer in God, trusts Him as a divine power. If your child is dying and you cannot find a cure for his suffering, you will surely turn to God. So, God gives us hope and that hope keeps the society balanced and moving ahead. Therefore, we have the Hutheesing Trust that manages temples and derasars.
  • After hope, we want GOOD HEALTH. More than education, we need health. And so, we built the Hutheesing Civil Hospital. This hospital became the largest public charitable hospital in the world, with 4700 beds.
  • We have hope and good health. Next, we need EDUCATION. So we came up with the Ahmedabad Education Society, for which I serve as the governing body.
  • Being educated is not enough, we need CULTURE. And so we have The Hutheesing Visual Art Centre that teaches art and culture.
  • After all these comes HERITAGE, our values, our lineage, our history. So, there is Hutheesing Heritage Foundation.
  • The Hutheesing Family as these 5 trusts and all these trusts address different things. Each of these is important for the society to function. These are all independent and have their own systems. But there is a lot to follow up on.

How do you manage to justify all these roles?
I cannot say that I manage all these institutes. This has come down through the generations. And hence, each generation has to make its own contribution and leave its own mark, however big or small. It’s not that I have set up and all these and I manage them. No! There are systems, there have to be. Say for instance, the Prime Minister does not run the country. The IAS does. PMs keep changing. So, there are systems. Wherever and however I can contribute, I do!

One question out of personal experience. This Haveli, in spite of being so gorgeous, has less visibility. Why is it that people don’t know about it?
Because it’s private and not open to the public. It’s our home and not a museum or a hotel. It is a stately home and so many people of historical importance have stayed here. Also, it has been a home for the family since several generations. So, we would like to maintain that honor of the family.

Your views on Heritage Week and people’s perspectives. 
See I’ll tell you, I don’t believe in the celebration of all these days. Mothers’ day, fathers’ day, lovers’ day, secretaries’ day, rose day, today fingers’ day, tomorrow will be hair’s day… Nooooo! In other cultures and traditions, everyday is a day when you pursue what you believe in. There is no time-table where each hour is dedicated to a subject, like we did in schools. All tasks are done simultaneously to do good to the society. I believe these celebrations are needed for a larger audience. But we can’t take them too seriously. It is silly. If you really want to value and preserve our heritage, then do something concrete about it. The taste of the food comes from eating, not from the recipes. The ground realities are quite different. Government cannot reach everywhere, if people are really interested, then they should be encouraged to preserve their own heritage. And in turn, if everyone does this, the heritage of the city too, will be well preserved.

To what extent does the Government support with regards to this issue?

Government may come up with any role. Let’s take for example, ASI. Ahmedabad has 52 ‘A’ grade monuments, recognized by ASI, which is more than the Old Delhi. (There are gradations of the historical monuments. There are global categories. A historical palace and a Haveli in a Pol will not have the same grades. They both are heritage, but the grades define their level of importance) Some places of historical importance in Ahmedabad are really filthy. It is the Government’s duty to maintain them. However, there are communal and political issues that obstruct the maintenance. And heritage is a complex issue as it is multi-cultured. But we need to look beyond religion. Whatever heritage is present on Indian soil is Indian heritage. Hats off to our CM Narendrabhai, he has started the Sarkhej Roza fest and does many other such things. But I feel the support is not there! Then there is Heritage Tourism and we have Amitabh Bachchan as the ambassador. But where is the necessary infrastructure? Geer – no proper roads, indefinite availability of jeeps, no proper hotels, no cleanliness. Modhera Temple – fantastic, but when you go there, you find that there are no washrooms! Marketing is necessary, but ground level facilities are a prior necessity. We Gujaratis are very good at business and entrepreneurship. But we terribly lack at service. And art and culture is a part of the service industry, as it comes under entertainment. We have lost the spark. Where is Gujarati theatre? Where is Gujarati poetry?

So, what do you think can be done?
It is not a simple solution! Travel & tourism, art & culture, entertainment, events need to be excavated in Gujarat. Gujarat completely lacks in the glamour industry too, be it sports or political or any other. It could not make it to the IPL as well. There is huge amount of money in Gujarat, but zero glamour. And the aspiration of the youth, that constitutes 65% of India’s population, is nothing but to be a star. That is why the reality TV sells!

Glamour reminds me, you have the highest number of royal clothes in your wardrobe in India. How did you manage to get them?

A lot among them are inherited; many of them were bought by my grandparents and parents. Others are collected.

Since you are a fashion consultant as well, what’s your take on today’s fashion industry?
The fashion world today is buzzing. It is a very big industry around the world. Roti, kapda and makaan are the three basic necessities of any human being. And fashion is not an invention. It is a psychological and physiological need. If you look good, you feel good. And if you feel good, you make other people feel better. So, remember – fashion is not shallow. It brings happiness. Apart from this, the fashion industry employs so many people. It is not an entity of the affluent class of the society. Do you mean to say, poor and middle class don’t wear clothes?! Everything has cascading effect. But the raw inspiration is translated and brought down to various levels, various standards and various groups of people. So it has great domino effect.

What drives the trends, the fashion industry and the mindsets?
People are inspired from movies for their fashion and they follow trends, so that is the impact of entertainment. According to me, the glamour industry is a great empowerment tool. Today lot many people are taking this industry as a career. Many youngsters and college grads start their own event management company. This industry has even reached the smaller villages. With such cascading effect, this is the reducing pressure on the urban society. People used to migrate for better opportunity and better quality of life but now they are going back taking urban phenomena back with them, at very less cost. Every product needs to be marketed, even politicians need to be marketed, that’s what they do with the use of different media. And entertainment is great marketing and it’s all done by the youth through modeling, event management, hair-styling, make-up etc. Every girl, be from a metro or from a village, likes to look prettier. We need to understand the combined impact of beauty, entertainment and fashion industry. If we can develop this culture and mindset in Gujarat, then lot many people will get employment. And more importantly, it is self-sufficient, no bank is required to loan for that. I tell you, I had started ‘Lakme India Fashion Week 12 years down the line. And today, there are so many fashion weeks being organized all across India, promoting so many young designers who in turn employ so many artisans. Government has not poured a single penny for it; still it feeds lakhs of people being self-sustained without the help of Government, NGOs or any other external support system. These are the kind of activities required to be performed in order to empower the youth.

Somewhere heritage is being linked with fashion…
Absolutely…
Fashion, historically, always comes from the top. See… Today what Kate Middleton wore, that became the trend, the fashion. It always flows from top-down. People in great position and power are the derivatives for mass clothing. Even if you look at our traditional system, the jewels that our Kings and Queens used to wear are being replicated by other classes of the society. The diamonds may be replaced by silver, but designs are the same. There is street art, popular art, but all these are more functional. Today, the youth want style, not functions. Though it has to be functional, but it also has to be stylish. And I think these both can very easily blend. For example, a saree. None of the designers in India has invented it. It is there for 5000 years. Why are we so afraid of the word ‘Fashion’? I want to get this myth out; people think fashion is something frivolous. No, it’s not. Every human being needs clothes! Both, fashion and heritage are very important for the human society. A tree cannot grow tall without its roots and heritage is our roots. If you don’t take care of the roots or cut them off, then how would a tree grow? Grass will grow, but not a huge banyan tree!

Just to end with, 10 years down the line, what do see Gujarat as? Would it be a heritage state, industrial hub, education city or something related to fashion?
Let me tell you, it already is a hub for fashion. 40% of the manmade, synthetic fabric in India comes from Surat; Ahmedabad was the Manchester of East and is the largest producer of cotton and denims, 80% of the world’s diamonds pass from Surat. Clothes and jewellery, two most eminent parts of fashion come from Gujarat, what else is left to focus on?! But we need fashion to convert the raw materials to final product. It is the value addition where we are lacking. And by doing that, we can multiply our growth, in turn add income for the state and employ youth as well. This is my personal wish too! For this, we need education and insight. We have education institutes like NID, EDI, NIFT, NIJD etc., we have NGOs like SEWA, Kala Raksha, Shrujan etc., we have mills like Arvind, Ashima, Garden etc., we have textile museums like, Calico, Shreyas, TAPI collection in Surat; we have it all. Gujarat will be a great center for fashion. It will be a great learning center for education and it has been since history. First school of pharmacy, first entrepreneurship institute, ATIRA, first school of architecture, first school of design, IIM etc. – Ahmedabad is home to all these. The vision of Narendrabhai is to make Gujarat, a knowledge corridor and he will do it by encouraging knowledge investment. Every economy is driven by knowledge and Research & Development. If you have knowledgeable people, you can do R&D. Gujarat will be an industrial hub for sure, but it will also be a knowledge driven society in a span of couple of years. Gujarat will be rocking and it should be rocking. And we really will make it. What was missing, was a catalyst and I think those catalysts are here now! (You are the catalysts and this is what you people are doing! You are taking it to the masses. It has to be inclusive growth.)

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=A%20Weaver%20Of%20Heritage,Culture%20and%20Fashion,Umang%20Hutheesing%20Shows%20the%20path%20To%20Self-Reliance_615

 

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