Introducing -Spaces called home

The campus diaries never got written till the campus was no longer mine to call home.

Earlier this year, I came to a strange realisation. My parents were moving out of our home in the Holy Family Hospital Campus and moving to their own place in Sarita Vihar. The realisation was – that in the past two years this would be the 6th space that was to become home to me. Six! I heard a friend exclaim when I shared this with her – you must feel quite unsettled all the time. She was only partially right. I was taken by our capacities on owning up to newer places, people and lives. These moves have not been bereft of challenges but it is not the challenge that lingers on in my mind, but the feel of the wall in Pune propped up against which I spent a majority of my time at home; the wooden bench next to the window in Saiha stained with coffee mug rings , the vast terrace in Baroda and Peacocks in Delhi.

My early journal scribbles are dull descriptions of events and people with occasional glimpses of reflections on spaces called home. Strangely in most discussions with Nimesh I found a pattern of referring to myself and changes in me with respect to the city I lived in. This was not merely a point of reference to indicate which year or time slot I was speaking but more about what “me” I was speaking of. The footloose times in Bombay, desperately deranged Chandigarh days, reckless streaks in Delhi, growing up and moving on in Pune, oscillating between content and restlessness with no stops in between – Saiha, and now Hyderabad.
Why then did I not write about the cities I stayed and what they did to me. In Hyderabad its another beginning, another cycle of relating, observing, moving on and along with... I'll probably start writing about home soon to connect to the many mes' i seem to have laid to rest in these spaces.   Maybe begin with the campus diaries. 

A sieve for the breeze - Kota Doria

Much to my glee , I had another opportunity of interaction with weavers. Post my explorations at Upasana in Madurai and my all too short interactions with  weavers in Saiha, Mizoram  , I had conveniently put these explorations on the back burner and made a dive into enjoying all that Saiha came with.

Back in Delhi now and Crafts Revival Trust was undertaking a documentation exercise on crafts clusters and I happily jumped into the bandwagon and worked on Kota. My last memories of Kota were of over 8 years ago. Me and my sister had decided to make some trips that year and Bundi was where we were headed. Fascinating waterfalls and lovely blue homes  that we  watched from the fort dominate my memory of the trip.This time however I was headed for Kaithun, a town about 20km from Kota , known for Kota Doria fabric or Kota Masuriya as it is locally known.

Sizing and a sluggish monkey
One of my first interactions was with the young son from a home of Master Weavers. We spent our day meeting with with  government officers and talking about the the various processes involved in the making of the fabric. At the end of the day I found myself being led into what I thought was a clump of some nasty thorny bushes. I couldn't see too far into the thicket  and my uneasiness subsided only when the bushes cleared  to reveal  a cool shaded but relatively open patch with several rows of yarn stretched out on rods.5 odd families were working on sizing the yarn , a process that renders it strength. Parvati a woman I met there was most welcoming and we met twice over my visit to speak about the work she does. Parvati and her girls worked juggled multiple kinds of work - as domestic helps , cooks and paan workers (the process of sizing). Paan work seemed to be bringing in the least to their purses.

Mashing the wild onions

Sizing needs thorough application of starch onto the yarn and the Koli community in Kota was known to do this in their own unique way. A wild variety of onions was collected during the monsoons from the forests (it cannot be cultivated they tell me) around Kota. As  Kota and smaller towns around it grow , the forests become further from the Kolis and collection doubly difficult with forest guards intervening.Paan work is extremely tedious , more so for the Koli community to whose basket of work collection and storage of the wild onions is added.

This Koli Kanda as the onion is locally known is stored for the whole year in their homes during the monsoons and used as per need. They are first boiled and brought to the site of work and mashed into water . This solution is  applied to the dyed yarns propped up on wooden supports through the length of this little space in the park.

A Brush from the far north

The brushes  used are a story in themselves. Weighing over a kilo in the least these brushes are not made locally. Parvati cannot seem to remember which place the brush makers come from , but she's certain its very far and the trees that provide for its bristles don't grow in Rajasthan. The brush makers visit Kota annually, though this frequency now is dwindling. I later read more on the process and realize they come from Kashmir.

Through the couple of days that i spent in Kota , was  able to meet with not just the weavers themselves  but graph designers, women engaged in the warping process, dyers and my sense of wonder on how many hands a Sari passes through before it gets made was constant.

At another point in the trip I was able to watch an old woman and her grandchild work on the warping or Taan. The yarn was wound around these Nallas and mounted on a frame. The ends of these yarns were hooked onto a paddle of sorts which was held by the grandmother. The duo made rounds with the frame and paddle around a poles and prepared the warp for 5 saris. I understand that close to 2800 yarns are required for the warp in one sari. While i flipped through some of the studies on the process of Kota Doria, i realized that this process of warping was considered quite dated and attempts to mechanize some parts of it were not taking of too smoothly. I recalled the soft and cautious tread of the woman and  her grandaughter around the poles. I wondered whether she could play a part in the new innovations proposed or whether the easier retired life would bring the kind of joys one assumes it would.
Women on the Loom
The working of the loom is largely left to the women of the Ansari community. Traditionally  most members of the family were engaged with the loom or the pre loom processes but with declining income the men of the household moved onto other work. The loom for many is no longer the only source of income. Women however are unwilling to let go of the loom, shares Bashiran a member of a a local weavers organization. Among various other reasons , she feels a strong one is the independence that weaving brings with it. Independence to travel and interact with different people, get a steady income in her control etc. Young girls prefer marriage within the community where there is a appreciation for her skill and independence to use it.

These were just some of the processes that i was able to skim through during my visit. On the way back , I recall being overwhelmed by how many hands yarn went through before this fabric emerged. A fabric as light as this , filtering the breeze and making the harsh summers more bearable. Reflections continue - on the people, the weave and the interactions.

Thanks Aamir, Sunny, Yash and Sharmilla  for your help on this and Ritu for remembering that I'd be interested in something like this.

Uttarayan - Part III - Sweet Tooth

Til Chikki

Peanut Chikki 

Uttarayan - Part II- Getting the Kite

We visited Gendi Gate in the old city for some kites. Sharing some images

Now for some Quirky Kites

Uttarayan- Part I- Gearing up

I find myself in Baroda this Uttarayan. I watch and learn  as Nimesh re discovers the pre uttarayan preparations. I find myself thinking , ok , so we'll fly kites, its going to be bright and colourful and a whole lot of fun. I might be right but what I didn't account for is the serious business that kite flying is in these parts. Here's a glimpse into over half a day of preparations..... all towards getting the Dori (string) ready.

Get to Akbari - They are a family thats in the business of preparing the dori.  Get to Fatehganj and ask for Akbari's everyone knows the place.  Ignore the stench of the chicken coops and move on to where you see a magenta mushroom you see spools of magenta strings rotating continuosly giving you a feel that you are a part of a disco sequence with Parveen Babi? yes?!! then you're at Akbari my friend and if you are a girl/woman you'll probably not find too many like yourself. Men of all shapes and sizes in a frenzy are looking for the best buy and meticulous preparation.

Select the Dori and Phirkee
Dori's of different strengths or plys are available at their store and going by the names of a few of these its preparation for a combat- AK- 56 , RDX , Ninjas, etc to name a few.
Get in Line
Pass on your Manja for some glass coating. You are in line you will get a token number for your reference and from now on follow your number like the lamb did Mary.

Give it an edge
The white dori is passed through a mixture of glass , sabudana (for starch), and some other chemicals, it emerges yellow and is wound on a large charkhi.

The Charkhi enjoys some time in the sun while it waits is turn next to a bornfire.
Let it feel the heat
The charkhi spends some time on a stand at the bonfire, where some diligent hands of customers and attendants rotate it to ensure it dries properly.

Roll it up
 Finally the string passes on to a Phirkee and you're ready for some kite shopping.
The fascinating part of this visit was observing how each process is conducted. Motors spinning the charkhis, boys on sliding seats , phirkees loaded on to stand with wheels- simple yet mind boggling.

Some more on the magenta mushroom cloud right here

Quirky Christmas

An unusual crib,  put together with a lot of ingenuity. The crib makes the tableau of the birth of Jesus less solemn , more interesting and well ...definitely quite quirky. Merry Christmas! Its great to be home.

All of these images are of one crib, put together by the laundry department of Holy Family Hospital. Walking around the campus at this time of the year is quite exciting as each department puts up its own crib. While some are the standard cardboard - box - hay structures with confetti-tinsel- streamers thrown around , there are others like this one where whatever is available in and around the workplace and homes is put to  use. Thermocol boxes to make chariots , penguins and parrots upon the same branch, a girl at a well created probably just to use up an old chaniya choli!There was no clear reason as to why a crocodile should be a part of this scene , but someone felt its presence would add value and there it was. In fact to accommodate it better a stream was created before the stable - complete with water in it and a bridge over it. The Croc evidently  moved around  quite a bit as we never found it in the same place twice. It also probably got more attention than baby Jesus.

I didn't get around to seeing all the pieces on campus, but this one was worth each minute I spent on it. 

A camel cart with dolls as passengers. The lovely dates'  of the very wise men?

The guest list for this birthday was quite eclectic, it included , a Crocodile , a tortoise,  some fish and a penguin apart from the regulars (cattle, donkeys , camels and sheep)
A frightful stare from the angel seems to have had its effect in freezing the other players , apart from the curious baby Jesus.

A pretty young thing at the village well.