John Singh: The Anokhi visionary

John Singh, one of the persons instrumental in reviving Rajasthan’s dying and centuries-old-art of hand-block printing and fusing it with contemporary designs and making it famous worldwide through its unique label, Anokhi, passed away yesterday after a massive heart attack.

Not only textiles but John took interest in conservation of heritage of the Pink City and Rajasthan also helped many performing artists, who past their prime, are often left to fend for themselves.

The Anokhi label, started in 1969 which mainly deals in apparel, furnishings and interior products, stands out because of its distinct designs, colour palette and product quality, has given rise to many clones.
John, 75, and his wife Faith had started Anokhi when the craft of hand block printing was losing its fervor with cheap clothing like polyester gaining ground.
Block printing is actually a tedious process and involves stamping designs onto the fabric by hand using intricately carved wooden blocks. It is labour-intensive and requires time, teamwork and a tremendous level of skill. For example, it can take five carvers up to three days to create a pattern in a printing block.

Today with a turn over with more than Rs 100 crore and 26 outlets in different cities of the country,Anokhi employs around 800 people especially women from the under privileged sections. But for John, business always meant fair trade, open and taking care of people. Apart from taking care of his workforce, he has started a sort of support system for performing artists, whom he found on his various travels across the state.

Vinod Joshi, who worked with John for more than 15 years said John never liked hogging the limelight, he always preferred working behind the scenes.

John was also part of the Jaipur Virasat Foundation, which was the main initiator of the world famous Jaipur Literature Festival.
Rightly Sanjoy Roy, producer of JLF says: “He was a visionary. Generous and passionate about many things including bikes.”

John singh 3_Fotor
Vikram Golcha, another close associate, says : “He was passionate about every little thing he did. Always talked one to one with artists and could easily spot talent and draw the best from a person.”

His daughter-in-law Rachel Bracken Singh, who takes care of the Anokhi business and their family friend Katz from Mumbai has given a fitting tribute to him, writing : “We got the shocking news this morning that John has passed through the portals of this life leaving behind people whose souls he so deeply touched.We hear off or read about people who do much to change the world but I don’t think that there was anyone who wore the mantle of greatness so graciously and lightly.
He believed in the win-win situation where nobody needs to loose and where everybody has the right to be happy. He showed us how it was possible to succeed without compromising our ideals and integrity. He understood the paradox of living a simple life to be able to appreciate all the richness around him. He trusted in the inherent kindness and goodness of people and the workability of any situation.
There are so many lives that breathe easier today because he lived and so many people who he gave the intangibles of worth and self-esteem to. He was so many things to so many of us – a friend, a guide, a hero.
For those of us who love and respect him it is a time to mourn the departing of a bright star from our lives. But we must understand that we mourn for ourselves and for our loss. For him, the memory of his time on earth must be a celebration because not only did he give back much, much more than he took, he also enjoyed every moment it.”

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