Wendell Rodricks: From green rooms to grassroots activism
Panaji, Feb 13 : Goa’s style doyen Wendell Rodricks, who breathed his last on Wednesday, was known to sashay through the green rooms of top-billed fashion shows in Indian metros and global fashion capitals, as easily as he dug into grassroots activism in his native state.
Raised in Mumbai, Rodricks who moved to Goa several decades ago and anchored his signature fashion chores from his grand mansion in the idyllic riverside village of Colvale, lent his unique touch to several projects related to the state, be it creating a special uniform for the Goa Police or lending his creative touch to civic activism movements.
“He designed our first Goa Bachao Abhiyaan band ‘Save Goa’, which was distributed at the first press briefing on the Regional Plan on December 3, 2006,” says convenor of the Abhiyaan, Sabina Martins.
The Abhiyaan was a people’s movement against a proposed move by a Congress-led coalition government to convert large swaths of pristine forest and agricultural land into settlement zones.
In the 1990s, Rodricks was also roped in by then Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane to design a new ‘people-friendly’ uniform for the Goa Police to replace the dour khaki. Rane had just returned from a junket to Singapore and had returned impressed by the natty attire of the police in the Southeast Asian country.
Rodricks responded with a white (shirt) and blue (trousers) uniform, complete with depiction of a badge of coconut palms on the shoulders. While the uniform was a refreshing change, a subsequent regime headed by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar reverted the police uniforms to khaki after cops complained that white uniforms were tough for upkeep, especially in the sultry and dusty weather conditions in Goa.
Rodricks’ legacy continues to an extent, with the Goa Police traffic department personnel continuing with the uniform which he had designed.
Rodricks was also requested to design a uniform for the Enforcement Directorate in in 2014, soon after he was conferred the Padma Shri, but the proposal did not catch on.
A few months before he died, Rodricks led an agitation to save six, nearly two century old mango trees in his village of Colvale, which were on the chopping block to make way for an expanded highway connecting Goa to Mumbai.
While Rodricks along with a few locals rushed to the site and prevented the chopping of trees in March 2019, the trees were eventually hacked in December last year, when the designer was sailing on an international cruise liner.