I met Simar (Dugal) for the first time in 1993-94, and the first thing that struck me was how warm she was. I felt I could communicate with her effortlessly. There was nothing superficial about her; she was a supermodel who wasn’t a diva. She didn’t care which hotel she was being put up at. She always maintained her decorum and elegance.
During one of my first shows in 1993 or ’94, she overheard a girl saying that she hadn’t eaten anything. She quickly gave her box of food to her saying, “pehle aap khao (you eat first)”. She was a real person.
Not a diva
Simar had a great sense of discipline and was always half- an-hour early for shows and rehearsals. She didn’t crib about the number of rehearsals or how many times we made her change. She was our ‘give her anything and she will carry it off’ model. Normally models say, ‘I am tired,’ but she would go on and on without even asking for water, and with that soft, beautiful smile on her face. She was keen on giving her best shot.
“Simar was experimental and brought her own ideas to the table. But she never overstepped.”
And money had no value for her even though she was a hardcore professional. Once, we had used a picture of hers in an ad without knowing that the rates paid for ads were much higher than other shoots. I wanted to pay her more when I found out. But she refused to take it!
She loved music and said she had always wanted to walk the ramp to classic Hindi tunes. Her favourite songs were Zindagi Bhar Nahi Bhulegi Barsaat Ki Raat and Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh.
Defining an era of fashion
Simar didn’t throw tantrums. She was my favourite model because I didn’t have to worry about anything. It was a different era of fashion then and it has gone with Simar.
You could see her inner designer even in the ’90s – fashion was in her bloodstream. She didn’t need a stylist and was quite experimental too, bringing her own ideas to the table. And while she suggested aplenty, she made sure she wasn’t overstepping. She would check out the clothes and ask if she could wear a particular outfit or sari. And if we wanted her to change, she didn’t mind at all.
A calming presence
She’s been my friend for 27 years now. I think it started at the eve of a fashion show in 1997, celebrating 50 years of Independence, which was outdoors. It started raining but we kept rehearsing and she didn’t complain. She could see how stressed I was and comforted me with a hug, saying, “Don’t worry. All will be well because you’ve worked so hard for this.”
She emanated strength, calm and confidence in all the years I knew her. She met me for the last time in 2019, when she told me about her illness – and she comforted me! She said, “Look, I’m fine! Don’t you think I look fine?”
She was the friend I could call at 3am. She is irreplaceable.
As told to Karishma Kuenzang
Follow @KKuenzang on Twitter
Leena Singh is a senior designer from the Ashima-Leena label
From HT Brunch, August 16, 2020
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch