Long story short: Ishaveya

By Elsbeth van Paridon
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, September 13, 2013
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Jahanavi Bhaskar Laag [Photo/thatsmags.com]

"We're Indian. Indians do not live in China." These were the prophetic words spoken by Jahanavi Bhaskar Laag's mother when her daughter announced she, together with her swish (Swiss-Swedish, come on) husband, would be moving to Beijing. As the old Indian saying goes, "One's mother and homeland are greater than even heaven." Mom sure did have a point here; however non-PC this may sound. India and China, the two most populated nations in the world and both so alike in their substantial economic growth of the past decades, sometimes seem more like the curious cats down the lane peeking out of the kitchen curtains, than two strategically cooperating global tigers on their way to create a massive roar on the international stage.

"Put on whatever you want, but just make sure you are comfortable with it. Only then can you carry it off." Wise fashion advice from Laag herself. Photo courtesy of Ishaveya

From working in her mother's interior design company to wanting to work in wildlife protection to majoring in social anthropology and ancient history at University College London; from India to London to Sweden, Laag at 25 has already been around the global block. Yet she never could have imagined China would feature on the itinerary. Almost two years ago she set foot on the Beijing tarmac and from thereon it was only a matter of time before her brand Ishaveya, importing affordable Indian hand-crafted accessories, came into being. Laag cares most about the story behind every piece; in this light she can rest assured: China will give you stories to tell your great-grandchildren (or grandchildren, but I prefer positive thinking).

Square-shaped elegance; I want this. Photo courtesy of Ishaveya

The ring that is Beijing

"I just wanted to crawl under the duvet and cry." Jahanavi B. Laag

The boxing ring, that is. I think plenty of us (ok, perhaps more so the women) can identify with the feeling of just wanting to stay in bed and stare into Beijing's snow-filled grey blank winter sky. For some it's the language barrier, for others it may be visa issues (I can almost hear the collective sigh of compassion blowing in from the foreign front on this one), and for yet others it's both. Beijing can deal a serious blow to even the most grounded and together people out there. Laag indeed got her share of the moon cake (just to remain in the festive mid-Autumn spirit).

The China hill at a distance appears smooth… (I did indeed brush up on my Indian proverbs for this one). But when you zoom in, you'll see it's dressed in potholes. With no job, no friends and nowhere to go, Laag spent her first few months in China hauled up at the couple's serviced apartment. Not too shabby, you might think, but when you are fully dependent on your husband, cannot utter a tone in Chinese and have to fly back to Delhi every 30 days in order to pay a visit to the city's China Visa Center (hooray), the feeling of general malaise can hit you like the nightmare that is Guomao subway station during rush hour. Room service won't help you one bite.

Nevertheless, she made it through her hazy China months and things were looking up. The path up the hill started to resemble more that of Beijing's Fragrant Mountain and at this point, her frequent (euphemism, granted) trips to Delhi often saw her paying a visit to the jewelers her family had been going to for generations, since many of her Beijing-based friends expressed an interest in adorning themselves with some unique Indian pieces. As do I for that matter. The idea of setting up a China business to import these gems and create a platform for Indian design in China was now officially taking shape. One question remained: How to polish her China company?

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