Diwali in India and Teamwork Lessons From Arpan Cooperative

Diwali brings with it a sense of hope and unity. I say unity mainly because this is what Diwali means to me. I am a Muslim and Diwali is a Hindu holiday, but I still find it as exciting as Eid, a Muslim holiday. I celebrate Eid with my family and I enjoy Diwali with my friends. This year the artisans from Arpan Cooperative invited me to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, with them. I had to visit Arpan Cooperative to discuss issues related to production and group management, so I planned my visit to Arpan Cooperative during the festival week with an ulterior motive.

The artisans welcomed us with a beautiful rangoli (design made with colored powders and other media) at the doorstep of their workshop. We wished each other a happy Diwali, lit diyas (oil lamps) and ate lots of sweets.  Then we got down to business.

Aside from the celebration, this meeting had a serious agenda. Every year all the cooperatives review their performances and set goals and rules to monitor their progress.

They drafted their rules, including punctuality in production, creating best quality garments, working as a team to increase business profit and continuing to work towards social development in their community. The group comprises fourteen women and therefore fourteen leaders. They appoint a supervisor every year.

Today they appointed a new supervisor for the year for their group, Vimal.  After her selection, she said, “I am very nervous.   I have always done my work well and produced garments with finesse and on time. Being a supervisor is big responsibility. All the women from my group have promised to help me do my job well, and this makes me look forward to my new role.”

Once the rules were drafted we put that business aside to play a game. The women blew air balloons and were all set to have a fun time. Prajakta weaved in a Life Skills Education activity into this game. Each artisan was given one balloon and had to make sure it stayed above her head. They had to do this without using their hands or legs.

The next step was to sit in a circle and pass the balloons to each other. After some time the artisans were asked to gather all the balloons in the middle of the circle and then try to burst the balloons with their legs. It was lots of fun competing with each other and we all tried our best to burst a maximum number of balloons.

This game had a lesson – the artisans learnt that the balloon is a metaphor for Arpan Cooperative and they all work hard for the progress of their group, making sure it stays aloft. Once the balloon (Arpan) falls down on the ground it is their responsibility to bring it up again. If the women fight among themselves they will end up bursting their own balloon (Arpan). This made the women realize that they will always work as a team for the development of their group.

Arpan is about an hour and a half away from SHARE office, but it is totally worth the journey. I always come back with lots of happy memories and pearls of wisdom from the insightful women.

From the 20th October 2009 Meeting With Artisans of Arpan Coorperative
Venue: Arpan Workshop, Thane
Attended by:  Kaveri, Kanchan, Vimal, Shaila, Jija, Sangeeta, Kunti, Nani, Anita, Parvati, Pramila, Sugandha, Anandi and Chaya
SHARE staff present: Prajakta Sawant, Program Coordinator, Nooreen Dossa, Asst Director
Blog written by Nooreen Dossa, Asst Director

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