My aunt Champa, dad’s elder sister, was quite the family legend. Part of a duo of sisters who ran away from home rather than get married and stayed single their whole lives, she was a literal fire-brand. Sharp tongues, bright as a tack and exquisitely beautiful, she was also extremely stylish and very bold for her day and age.

She lived on her own, began a paper bag printing factory that later some government goons threw her out of and then fought the court case for years. She used to travel to villages and towns in the Hubli area teaching women how to style hair and do Bonsai, tailoring, kasuti, batik etc so they could earn a living. Fiercely proud, she never asked for a penny from anyone but was absurdly touched when I gifted her a bag or a salwar kameez. She loved to cook and experiment with all kinds of traditional recipes and delighted in stirring up a quick meal when we visited her.

She was so stylish and elegant – sleeveless blouses were her favourite until she was well into her 70’s, hair was usually made into a French knot and she had a lovely collection of sarees. Whenever she visited us, I would be thrilled and scared in equal measure because she was quick to criticise – Why haven’t you done something better with your hair? This dress is a dull colour etc. But I always found her completely awesome as a person.

This is one of the sarees she owned and mum gave it to me after she passed away. Draped a bit differently to show off the lovely cutwork that the saree has, I have worn it with a dark blue velvet shirt that is hip length. I can almost hear her saying – if you had only French pleated your hair!