I had no preconceived ideas about Mumbai life when I arrived for my five week internship at MarketPlace. It’s not that I hadn’t done my research: my mind was full of first and second had accounts. But by the time summer had arrived, the stories I had heard had become tangled together in my mind, leaving me with no idea of what to expect.
Interning at MarketPlace required full immersion into Indian culture and the lives and stories of the artisans and MarketPlace staff. My first day was packed with introductions to the MarketPlace/SHARE community. I learned that the network of lives had been entwined with MarketPlace/SHARE for at least ten years, and more often seventeen or eighteen.
The main project for my internship was designing chindi (scrap fabric) product prototypes, like jewelry and fabric cards.
As an intern, I was given exposure to many aspects of a typical day for an artisan. For example, I sat in on some of the programs that SHARE organized for the women, including stress relief sessions and yoga. There was group role playing where the women acted out and resolved various situations that they might encounter in their daily lives. Though I can only understand a few words of Hindi, I could tell by the loud chatter and laughter that the women really enjoyed those few hours of the day devoted to their programs.
I was also able to visit one of the artisan groups, Pushpanjali, at their workshop and spent some time with the women there. Rupesh, whose mother heads Pushpanjali and was in Illinois at the time, proudly told me that he had been working with MarketPlace since he was sixteen.
The strong sense of community amongst the artisans, developed over many, many years of working together, was obvious. In my opinion, that is one of the reasons why MarketPlace and SHARE are so successful at what they do.