Some Patterns Come Together and Other Patterns are Discussed

October 3rd


Our target was to finish planning all the embroidery today.  Unfortunately, we did not as there were a couple of pieces where nothing seemed to work.  Either because the fabric was so bright that no embroidery color yarn would show well, or the embroidery just did not work with the print and style of garment, some pieces remain unfinished.  Because this is a group venture, there is a lot of experimentation and input from various people and that is what makes the line so vibrant and interesting.

We met with our Ikat fabric producer.  The Ikat tying, dyeing and weaving technique has always fascinated me.  They dye the unwoven yarn in the pattern they have planned, and then weave, almost with their eyes closed, and somehow the completed design emerges from the loom.  Sometimes the pattern is so complicated that even with the help of a computer, I would not be able to calculate how many inches should be dyed say red and another couple inches blue, etc.

Then I went to visit the workshops of WARE and Sahara collectives.  During this trip to Mumbai, I had been traveling between my home, which is in a pretty middle class suburb of Santa Cruz, to the workshop, which is on the edge of the slum where 3 of the collectives are located.  This was the first time this visit that I actually went into the slum.  Things had not changed that much – the lanes were still so small that you had to walk single file, there were open drains, sometimes you came upon an open area which was community property, and there were some common toilets( but not many).  Most of the doors to homes were open as they are small and there is little or no ventilation, so as you walk by you get a tiny glimpse into the lives of the residents.  I saw people watching TV, others sleeping, kids studying, and women doing household chores, mostly cleaning at that time.

The cooperatives’ workrooms  are basically the same space as one of these homes.  At WARE, the sewing machines are located downstairs and the cutting and embroidery distribution is done upstairs.  The staircase is narrow and there is no railing for some of it, so there is a rope that you hang on to, to get to the top.  I thought of the movie Tarzan and Jane, but I was not about to swing anywhere on that rope both because it would not take my weight and because there was no space and I would probably crash into a wall 6 inches away!

Pushpika and Nooreen meeting with the WARE artians
Pushpika and Nooreen meeting with the WARE artians

The women in both the groups were impeccably dressed and smiling from ear to ear.  They were so honored that we, Nooreen, Prajakta and myself had come and wanted to show us the few new things that had been done since my last visit.  WARE had had the workshop painted and you could smell the fresh paint.  We talked about the Social Action program, where the groups had taken on the topic of domestic violence.  Nooreen presented a case where a woman had married a man in the village and come to Mumbai with him only to learn that he was already married to another woman.  She decided to stay because she felt she had no options.  After having two kids he began abusing her first verbally, then physically and then in public …and the story went on.  The reactions of the women ran the gamut, from she should not leave him because her children needed a father so she should find a way to stay, to leave him and make every effort to get child support (this came mostly from the younger women in the group).

WARE artisans at the meeting
WARE artisans at the meeting

The philosophy of SHARE is not to tell women what they should do, but to point out options and encourage the women to talk about the future.  We realized that this problem was being thought of from purely a cultural perspective and we needed to understand the psychological aspects to this problem – that some men have a need to control their wives.  We have a long way to go but have made a good start with the discussions.

Then, we met with the Sahara cooperative.

As we left the Sahara workshop we came across this group of people making a community rangoli for a function that night
As we left the Sahara workshop we came across this group of people making a community rangoli for a function that night

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