2nd October : Sustainabilty | Self Reliance | Slow Fashion

Today as we remember two great souls of our nation ; Mahatma Gandhi (http://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/gideatocombatglobali.htm) and Lal Bahadur Shastri (http://pmindia.gov.in/en/former_pm/shri-lal-bahadur-shastri/); we can still feel the resonance of the ideologies, they gave years back. Be it Swadeshi, Self Reliance through Harit Kranti, Khadi “a task in which charkha will have the crucial role of spinning the yarn, which will be used further by the handloom weavers to produce entirely hand-made cloth, called khadi or khaddar (hard-spun, hand-woven cloth).” or for that matter progressive sustainable futures.

When an Indian mill-owner heard of Gandhi’s efforts, he called upon him to convince him that the best way of reducing dependence on imports was to establish more Indian mills.
“I am not doing exactly that,” Gandhi replied “but I am engaged in the revival of the spinning wheel.”
“What is that?”—the mill-owner asked, feeling still more at sea.
After explaining his work to him, Gandhi concluded: “I swear by this form of Swadeshi, because through it I can provide work to the semi-starved semi-employed women of India. My idea is to get these women to spin yarn, and to clothe the people of India with khadi woven out of it.” (http://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/gideatocombatglobali.htm)

The term Slow Fashion which has created a stir in the fashion industry ; was unknowingly the  Indian lifestyle in pre independence era.

Today we cant stop ourselves from writing about Nani (Grandmother) , the  inspiration , the strength and the lifeline of Blue Madder. She has been the axis of a large family ( read 150 members). The family which was totally dependent on the land , the rains and the labour they put in, to feed the mouths. In the fields, women folk   participated equally  as their counterparts and at home they took the total charge. Needless to say , they were the arduous lot and Nani being the eldest the leader.

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Nani while during her daily spinning ritual, with her 60 years old ‘Charkha’.

Women also took great care of the resources available around them, be it water, flora or fauna. They were true followers of Shatriji’s  ideology of self reliance. Ghandiji always believed that we as a nation should not be dependent on anybody for our needs and so did Nani. She was the metaphor in creating an eco system where dependency on outer factors was negligible. Right from food to footwear and clothes to  thatched roofs everything was done by hands. The model was designed in a way to generate livelihoods at maximum touch points. The community worked in total harmony where everybody’s role was defined.

Another major Gandhian attribute that they religiously followed was spinning. Inseparable part of their  daily chores.In other terms they were practicing sustainable slow fashion way back. They used hand spun and hand woven fabric which was then hand stitched to make garments.There slow fashion was a unified representation of sustainable, eco, green and ethical fashion. This eco system of spinning and weaving  was the spine of sustainable economy and inter dependency rather than intra dependency.

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Sharing her learning with younger generation.
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Hand woven blankets made out of ‘Nani’ hand-spun wool.
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‘Nani’ gave her colourful personal touch to this beautiful hand woven woolen skirt made with her hand spun wool, she is creating master pieces for her grand children, while making sustainable slow fashion garments.

Now years later , when we turn back and see, this eco system is no where to be found. A void can be sensed when for every single task we are  dangerously dependent on outer forces.This void is the driving force of Blue Madder.

Blue Madder is  re- building the same sustainable and self reliant eco system in western Rajasthan.

My Introduction to an “Another” World

It all started one & half year back when my sister returned from National Institute of Design while completing her diploma project from Luzern University, Switzerland.Being a curious soul, I enquired, which company she plans to join. As she is a textile designer from one of Asia’s most respected institute .Reply was point blank and on my face, NONE , rather I am going to join an Another World.

I was surprised & tried all my ways while introducing her to so called reality of life, materialism etc., in turn she introduced me to Laila Taibji, Jogi Pangal, M.P. Ranjan and many more of the fraternity. These names were no less than a foreign language. Next one week was turbulent, hell lot of discussions, arguments, justifications;

Two worlds were trying to conquer each other.

One our own world where we define success with designation, place you live, car you drive, countries you travelled on holidays, ‘The Another world’ where success get defined by lives you are impacting, helping people to live dignified life, saving our own heritage, sensitizing kids & youth about our culture, joy & happiness you derive while making with your own hands, craftsmanship, detailing and all.

Finally, the  Another world won.

It was 26th January 2014, we went to a small Village Hempura in Nagaur district, Rajasthan where my Mausi (Aunt)  is staying with her family, she is an Anganwadi Supervisor & one of the most educated woman of the village (She had her education upto 8th standard), discussed the idea with her & asked her help get us connect to the village folks, she made few calls & we all decided to meet at the village school.

We were equally excited and worried as to how many of them will turn up, we reached the school at 10 o’clock, Republic Day celebration was going on & it was a great opportunity for us to get introduced to the Who’s who of the village, including Sarpanch, School Teachers, Panchyat members etc. Post celebration  we were informed that people were waiting to meet us. To our surprise, the hall was full strength,  age groups ranging from 10-60 years. The room smelled of enormous excitement and energy.Many of them carried their handmade stuff  to show us.It was a great boost up, to start on such a high note.

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Our First meeting at Govt. School with the village women spinners and new generation girls of Hempura village.
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Master Weaver with his stand still pit loom

We first introduced ourselves & then our idea . Idea to revive the  culture of handmade; it all started unfolding, the older generations telling their stories with great pride, stories about culture, rituals, social dependency & also how it all started vanishing.

We discussed in length, the indegenous techniques and products, their shrinking demands, alternative products, newer markets and everything else under the sky.The sad part of the talk  were the reflections of the the undignified work which these people need to do to survive in absence of alternative opportunities.

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Village women in woollen Dhabla (Skirts) woven by pattu weaving

The team also spoke about the need to preserve this culture, how we as a team can intervene on design level to get marketable products.Next, we quoted various self sustained models in our own country where not only they are having dignified life but also they help others to get employment with rich heritage of art & crafts. It all went for two long hours, which flew away in seconds.Our aim was to build  confidence in the group, that if we all decide, we can create a self sustained Eco-system & have dignified living at ease. We signed off on this note & decided to meet again in the evening. Meanwhile we visited some households where the  legacy still continued though at a minimal scale, but with pride & self respect.

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Mud houses of the village
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‘Tana’ at one of the weavers house for pattu ( woollen blanket) making

In the evening meeting the strength reduced to only 50%. Together we all chalked out a pilot plan, according to which we will provide wool for hand spinning to the first group & once the spinning is done, the yarn will go the weaving group.They will produce samples with their current techniques & knowledge, supported with our small design intervention & dyeing process.Total 37 people enrolled.

It took us almost two and a half months to finish the pilot. The day had come. We all met again, in the same school on 18th April 2014.The results were mesmerizing. Many of them could not believe their own handmade wonders, they were happy, excited & ready to poise on this joyful journey once again.

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Weaver during his daily weaving session in the village
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Pattu tana (warp)

The Blue Madder was born . We came, we saw & we conquered our own world to have an Another World.