She was not enjoying her stint in the media when work moved online once COVID-19 struck. One day while cleaning her old drawers, she found a paper with a scribbled roadmap for a brand that would revive the heritage craft of phulkari from Punjab.
The roadmap, dated two years back, was inspired by her disappointment at not being able to find a piece of hand-embroidered phulkari, all in the hope of gifting family and friends scattered all around the globe a piece of art from where she came from. “For most part of my adult life I had lived away from home – be it in India or other countries. And wherever I would go I always wanted to carry a gift which could represent the culture of my state. I would go hunting for something in phulkari, but to my utter disappointment I could barely find a piece that was hand-embroidered and showed its different motifs. The ones I found lacked quality and craftsmanship. This was while I was still a student. I of course used to make do with whatever was available but always felt that as a gift if only I could find a piece which could make for a more authentic representation of the culture of Punjab and talk about the story and history of the craft,” says the 26-year-old Shreya Mehra, the Founder of the phulkari brand, Aab Label. Aab, meaning water, draws its nomen from punj – five, aab – water and thus the land of five rivers. There is a spiritual meaning too, affirms she and goes on to explain: “Water is ever-flowing, gently and yet rough at times, hurtling over obstacles, creating channels for it to find its course. Same it is for Aab".
The eureka moment came while cleaning that messy drawer. “I knew it could be done! And thereafter there was no looking back,” says she.