Letter from the Editor: The Call of October

Letter from the Editor: The Call of October

A special ‘Oct-O-बर ‘ edition with colours, cultural trends and conversation points of 2020 (so far), and why taking a leaf from October matters 

We often connect with certain months or days on the calendar given the complex network of familiarity and memory in our lives. Mostly wired by the past. A child’s birth, a turning point, meeting someone special, an unforgettable spiritual or healing experience. Of course one’s own birthday.

October as a month though has a collectively layered significance. The month when we start adding layers to our dressing in India is also about weddings and festivals. From Durga Puja in West Bengal to Dhareo Phanit, the festival of the First Harvest for Tangkhul Nagas in the Northeast. If Gujarat goes heady with Navratri and garba festivities, North India revisits the nuances of the evergreen, everlasting “good versus evil” matrix of life seen through the prism of the Ramleela. In most years, Dussehra (that symbolises the victory of the good over evil) and Diwali (the mythological homecoming of Rama, the flawless man) fall in October according to the festival calendar.


Photo: Tapan Parikh

A still from United Way of Baroda’s Garba Mahotsav, a fund-raising celebration held in Alembic Ground, Vadodara.

Visually, October is a captivating tapestry. It is about marigolds and oranges, farmers’ markets and a gentle, fragrant nip in the air. If 6am is gun metal blue, 6pm brings us an amethyst sky. In the West, the natural landscape is a divinely hand-mixed palette of burnt orange, rust, sienna, dull red and golden hues.

Germany celebrates with Oktoberfest, the world’s largest Volksfest (meaning “people’s festival), that runs for more than a fortnight and ends in early October. It was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this October, just a few days back, Pope Francis moved out of the Vatican for the first time in many months to celebrate Mass Saturday at the tomb of his namesake St Francis of Assisi and signed a new encyclical in the name of human fraternity.

If the United States is inching rather precariously towards a very contentious presidential election, back in India, we, as fashion writers are gearing up to watch the first virtual editions of two of India’s most important fashion weeks. The Lotus Make-up India Fashion Week and the Lakmé Fashion Week both show later this month.


Photo: Instagram/amitaggarwalofficial

A still from Amit Aggarwal’s fashion film, showcased during India Couture Week 2020.

However, the way cultural trends and observations of this year of COVID-19 stacked up gave us the idea of an “October” issue. The context and content of books, literature and cinema festivals, awards and awakenings. Some burnt, some blooming.

The fall of the Bollywood celebrity in India (a scandalous war of unproven allegations and toxic hate and anger tumbling out from a whole lot of other reasons), cancel culture as the big social disavowal, the exposed (through Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic suicide) but barely discussed fragile state of mental health in the country.

The fashion industry is battered from a business perspective across the world and what we call “the Covid discount” makes the issue of unsold inventories apparent. Yet, alongside optimism are promises for lasting change. In Milan and Paris, in New York, London and India, the fashion film or the phygital show took that much needed next step for fashion as an art form, as a representative act of how we feel as a society.


Photo: Christophe Archambault / AFP

Model Kaia Gerber presents a creation for Chanel during the Women’s Fall-Winter 2020-2021 Ready-to-Wear collection fashion show in Paris, on March 3, 2020.

We can reflect on all of it this October.

What we wear at home has become the biggest global fashion trend of this year. This October it is time to give “Ghar ke Kapde” (clothes for home), their moment in the limelight beyond pyjamas or smart athleisure.

An article on healing from a viscerally painful loss of a relationship written by graphic artist and TVOF columnist Amruta Patil; a cheerful one on October weddings in Nagaland by Parismita Singh; a reflective piece on books of 2020 (so far) by author Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan are among the highlights of ‘October’.

On the one hand is a case study of designer Payal Khandwala’s new brand direction (the cover image is from Khandwala’s new collection) and on the other an illustration by young artist from Manipur, Easternlight Zimik. He has artistically represented the cheer of Dhareo Phanit set against a charming fusion of the agrarian and the urban.


Photo: Handout / PIB / AFP

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi-Jinping shake hands at the Pancha Rathas complex in Mamallapuram.

Last year in October, the coastal city of Mamallapuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the Arjuna penance monument hosted the second informal summit between China and India. Chinese premier Xi Jinping was warmly welcomed by our veshti-clad Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This October, the very mention of China evokes a patriotism-fuelled wariness. We do not want Chinese yarn in our Banarasis, we do not want Chinese lights for our Diwali, we do not want cheap Chinese rip-offs of anything that can well be produced locally. We certainly do not want armed or unarmed Chinese intrusion into Indian borders.

As for why we all need a leaf from October, here is a few lines from American poet Robert Frost’s poem ‘October’.

O hushed October morning mild…
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.


Banner: A still from designer Payal Khandwala’s new campaign ‘Release 1’ photographed by Pranoy Sarkar, featured on the cover of Oct-O-बर .