Colaba’s latest lifestyle and art destination, conceived in 1966, opens today with an exhibition of seven Salvador Dali paintings.

Debris lines the entrance to Treasures of India when we arrive for a walk-through of Colaba’s newest luxury destination, opening this afternoon. It’s a Monday morning and labourers are working in double-quick time since the place will open its doors to the public in a little over 24 hours. Inside, naked mannequins share space with unpacked boxes in the compact venue and there is so much dust flying around that we find the midday photographer standing in one corner. We find out later that he suffers from an allergy.

Work in progress for the launch of Treasures of India. Pic/Suresh Karkera

But for a man who is clearly in a race against time, Rudhra Kapur, the store’s 50-year-old owner, seems as calm as someone with his feet up on a sunbed while on vacation. “Don’t worry about it,” he says with a drawl when we point out that the clock is ticking, adding, “I’m half-German.”

When we sit for a chat later, Kapur reveals that he gets his German ancestry from his mother, Gabrielle, who came up with the name and concept of Treasures of India in 1966. “The vision that she had was to create a home, which is actually a boutique,” Kapur says, continuing, “This meant the world to her but unfortunately, my parents separated at the time. So, the project never really took off.”

The open workshop at the store

The space itself, though, has been with the family ever since and fell in Kapur’s lap after Gabrielle passed away recently. He decided to complete what she had envisioned. “Every single item at the store — starting from the chandeliers to the manager’s desk — will be on sale for the customers who walk in,” Kapur says. He adds that the upper level of the two-storey structure will also house an art gallery, which will open with an exhibition of seven Salvador Dali paintings procured from a gallerist in Madrid.

Surrealist Cavalier

The upper level will also house an open workshop (similar to an open kitchen at restaurants) where patrons can watch first-hand how master tailors create the garments that are on display. Promoting the cause of such artisans, Kapur says, has assumed greater significance given the economic climate of the country.

Don Quijote de la Mancha by Salvador Dali

“With GST and demonetisation, when the business community is having a difficult time, you imagine the impact it is having on the weavers, printers and artisans who come home with `20 in cash and sleep with it under their pillow, so that they are able to give enough money to their wives to make a meal,” he rues.

Dali’s Cavalier on the Mirror

He adds that eradicating inequalities is what Gabrielle dedicated her life to once she gave up on her dream of opening the retail outlet. “My mother worked for the cause of Indian artisans till the end of her days. We have continued that and ensure that we don’t work with polyester or other artificial fabrics, because unless the artisans can make what they do lucrative, what is the point?” he reasons.

Even though she is no more, Gabrielle’s original plan for Treasures of India will eventually see the light of day once the debris is removed, the racks filled and the dust cleared. “I’ll gradually try and fuse our store at The Taj with this one, which is in my mother’s memory,” says the managing partner of Burlington’s, a fashion empire that Kapur inherited from his father. That designation is what his calling card consists of. But from today onward, he will also be known as the proprietor of a lifestyle outpost housed in a heritage building just off The Gateway of India that, essentially, is a gift from a son to his late mother and exemplifies the phrase, ‘better late than never’.

OPENS: Today, 5 pm
AT: D Wing, Dhanraj Mahal, CST Marg, Colaba.
CALL: 66518061
STORE TIMINGS: 11 am to 7 pm


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