Aliya Curmally, Curator/Creative Director, ‘All Good Things Bazaar’, and Writer and Producer, Yellow Jumpsuit Media, is a sustainability trailblazer and changemaker who believes in sustainability, building the environment and spreading good things. Her ‘All Good Things Bazaar’ is the talk of the town and this time, she has taken over the amazing Soho House in Mumbai (August 19-August 20, 2023) to hold her Bazaar and create all good things in the world. Read on as the amazing Aliya tells Sumita Chakraborty, Editor-in-Chief, TheGlitz, about her journey in the world of sustainability and how she strived to become a changemaker.
How did your journey as a sustainability trailblazer begin?
My interest in the environment and in matters of social justice were inculcated in me as a child, by my parents and my elder sister. As an adult in the working world, working in the film industry in Mumbai, the big metropolis, I began to observe things happening around me that were well, clearly environmental violations. I had studied city planning in college for my undergraduate degree, and I was aware of the effect of the built environment on people so I could not ignore what I saw. That’s when I felt the need to influence what was happening around me. The city takes a toll on people, and a polluted city harms people mentally, physically, emotionally, and so on. That’s where the idea of “Toxic City” came from, the screenplay I decided to turn into a novel because it was quite ahead of its time as a film when I wrote it ten years ago.
I used to go to Kavita Mukhi’s Farmer’s Market, where I connected with other folks who were already living this alternative life, and I learned ways in which I could make a difference – whether it was sharing information or adjusting my own personal habits. I went deeper into it – I began to work with NGOs who were spinning handloom textiles and using natural dyes, harvesting soap nuts for laundry and so on, and I was selling these products in the city at pop-ups like The Vintage Garden and Kala Ghoda Festival.
Tell us about All Good Things Bazaar? What is the USP of this endeavour and what can we expect to find here?
Everything you will find at the Bazaar has been designed to create good in the world in some way. A walk-through of the Bazaar will feel like an immersive experience of sustainable life, by no means complete, but a small selection of the potential of the wonders of achievable sustainable living. I remember the first time I saw brocade made into a sporty hoodie something inside me was just really happy, like finally the weavers of the world do not have to be lost to obscurity and all we have left is power-loom material being overproduced on machines that run on polluting coal-based electricity. I remember the feeling I got when I first picked up a glass made out of pine needles collected from the forest floors, which reduces the chances of forest fires and provides a new means of employment and is also a great material that’s antimicrobial…It’s just a wow feeling..it’s genius…It feels good.
What is your goal in presenting something so refreshingly unique?
My goal is to make people understand what creates a real impact in sustainability so that there’s more of that real impact in the world. It’s difficult to make our everyday lives sustainable with our now required needs of airplanes, internet, satellite, air conditioning…and it may not even be possible until big technology changes happen which aren’t in the hands of an average individual. And a little bit of recycling isn’t a free pass to pollute in other ways. The beauty of the brands at All Good Things Bazaar is the good that happens behind the scenes because of the way they work – from their decisions behind what’s in their supply chains, and how they produce – small batch, handmade, artisanal, natural fibres only. Each brand has a ripple effect across society – so when you support them you’re actually supporting an entire system that’s being run well, in a way that pays off for all of us down the line.
Tell us about your vision regarding this?
I have always wanted to build a space where people can meet each other and those valuable exchanges in the world of sustainable development in India, some kind of a gathering where B2B and B2C and ancillary businesses can all get together, and really connect and move ahead together. I was very inspired by the independent filmmaking circuit – where I had spent a lot of time – in the way people mix creativity with business and building good networks, growing together.. and I felt why not the same thing for Sustainability?
You’re a known writer, filmmaker and changemaker, so we have to ask you about your journey in the world of entertainment… how did it begin? What are your future projects?
I have always wanted to make movies since I was 12 years old, and for me, it started with Star Wars and George Lucas. I buried that desire for a long time because it was so far away from what I knew growing up and the film business was not an organized one or anything back in the day. Then, in my senior year of college where I was perfectly happy and utterly thrilled with my choices, I had a life-changing moment, not devastating by any means but I just about escaped being devastated – I was meant to be at the Twin Towers on September 11 but certain things happened the day before which made me change my plans.
I was spared a lot of fear and trauma, I had a dear friend who wasn’t. He survived but it took a toll on him. I remember thinking – you can do it all correctly, everything by the book, but you might end up being collateral damage in some crazy person’s plans, so get real with yourself – what do you want to do in fragile little life – and the answer at that time was I want to give making movies a real shot in life. I just pivoted everything around film and storytelling as best I could from then on, and it took me to where I wanted to be. I am working on a few projects, but my main focus right now is finishing up my novel ‘Toxic City’ – I have been building it for a decade, really trying to get into the science and technology of sustainability, so that I can present it to the world what I believe might give us a plausible chance as a civilization to live a little happily and peacefully, without the basic fears of food scarcity or lung disease or replacement by machines.
You are an environment warrior, what is the message you want to give our readers regarding this?
I would want readers to understand we are all in this together, and we can make a difference to the overall sustainability equation by choosing how we consume, and not lose on any of the fun of being alive. Going sustainable will feel like a change and a questioning of your own values – but let yourself go through it. Today there has been so much progress in the designs, in the materials, in the access to things.. so just go out and explore the world and consider some new options from what you think you’re used to.
Any quote that would best describe you and your life goals?
Mahatma Gandhi’s words on the planet and greed, “The Earth has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed” – that sums up what I wonder how to fix, that greed which is also somewhere a fear of scarcity and weakness. It’s a very primal instinct, to gather more than others, to hoard, to look after yourself the most. But it’s obviously the reason why we overheated the planet too. I do believe we can control our destructive nature and be a better species on the planet than we have been so far, and one of my goals is to build these spaces where we get people to start enjoying looking after the planet and finding those lost connections in a way that’s rewarding for them too.