More than the green, the red and gold of the tree caught my eye. At the Le Meridien, New Delhi, the Christmas tree of the season was unveiled. Kids were beelining towards the politely posing Santa while I tried to spot the artist.
Nehmat Mongia, the mind behind the installation, stood in all-black formals, shaking hands and sending smiles. "I had to run to so many people, most of whom told me this cannot be done." She talks of her project surrounded by a gaggle of people.
The installation stood among the very well-mannered kids and their even more polite Santa. The trees formed a cluster, which was draped in swatches of jade, crimson and dull gold, taking up the centre of the lobby.
"The concept was always going to centre around sustainability," said Mongia, who has been collaborating with the hotel for their annual Christmas installation for four years.
"The bamboo has been cut in a way that would add height and stuck together with arrowroot paste. The fabric used is all scraps and waste paper that has been coloured." The cluster of trees, all being extensively photographed by onlookers, is made with 100% sustainable raw materials.
"Every year, we collaborate with an artisan community from around Delhi and NCR region to create that year's piece," she said. They have previously collaborated with weavers and glass makers from around the city. For this, the Raavan makers of Titarpur, in collaboration with the blind girls from the National Association for the Blind for Blind Women Disability Studies.
When asked about how she goes about picking the group of artisans she wants to collaborate with, she said, "This time it was especially hard, because whoever I went to with my design would say no, and that it was too complicated. Finally, I met the Raavan makers from Titarpur, and they executed my design beautifully."
Besides the unveiling of the Christmas tree at Le Meridien, there were also a couple of stalls by not-for-profit organisations like Aseem's Library, where they had handmade earrings, paintings, and other trinkets for sale&ndash all of them made by underprivileged kids. I spoke to Mongia some more about her inspirations and what places get her creative juices flowing.
"My home" she said, adding, "I have all my supplies and motivations at home and that is where I feel my most creative." She experiments with mixed media, often deploying the use of scraps and mundane household items. Mongia has had her art displayed in galleries across Delhi, with one of her first displays being held at the age of twelve at the India Habitat Centre in 2010. She has even had one at the Indian embassy in Paris. Another one of Mongia's exhibitions is coming up at IHC soon.