November 14 , 2004
Hello from Andheri east in India.
Beth and I met with a woman we had been communicating with by email since the World Social Forum in January 2004. Her name is Nutan. She sews beautiful clothing, handbags and such, and they are accented with very fine embroidery and sometimes mirrors. Very well done, excellent quality. Fabrics are from Rajasthan and many areas of India. She hand picks her cotton printed fabrics, although there are some solids, and they are exquisite. Mostly dyed with vegetable dyes. Nutan is often invited to exhibit at fairs in India.
We had dinner with Nutan and her best friend Parati at a restaurant called Mainland China. Inside the restaurant was cool and pleasant. The food was excellent and I forgot I was in Bombay for a while.
We visited and it seemed like we shared a level of ease one would have with friends of many years. Nutan seemed very relaxed and happy to show us her work and that or her producers. Her friend Parati was very knowledgable about her work as well and told us as much as Nutan. We laughed and shared personal information as well.
Nutan told us about some of the women who are her producers. Just like the women that are taken in by Creative Handicrafts, they are very disadvantaged. Taken advantage of by husbands that have fallen prey to social evils, they are often beaten by their husbands. The husbands take any money the women earn, and sometimes mothers take their daughter’s money even after the daughter is married. There are many scenarios. Nutan often gives her women cash advances so that they can make payments on debts that have unimaginabley high interest. Another social evil that preys upon the uneducated and disadvanged. From what Nutan has shared with us, it sounds like she provides counsel and advice to the women who produce for her, but she feels it is an uphill battle, because the women are not changing their living and choice-making patterns.
Beth and I are making acquaintances here in Andheri east, in the neighborhood of our flat, which is in a gated community called Takshila. However, don’t be mislead by “gated community.” While it is upper class, it is nothing like what you would know as a gated community in the states. Still, we notice the difference from other living areas.
We have been walking the shop crowded roads around Takshila, to eat, to use cyber shops, to phone the states, to shop, or just to walk. We now know Raj at the photo shop. We are fond of our waiter at the veg restaurant. Faces of shop keepers have become familiar, as have our faces to them. And it is just feeling good to be in one place for a while, as we were in Dombivili. The difference here is we are close to Creative Handicrafts. We can walk there from Takshila.
Tomorrow we will walk to Creative, to go through our order once more, and to visit more with the producers and Pinky and hopefully sister Isabelle, who started Creative. On Wednesday we will travel to Ganeshpuri with Nutan and Parati. On Thursday we will spend a day with Johny Joseph, the director of Creative, to visit producers in villages in other areas, and later in the evening, go to a play with Nutan and Parati. On Friday we will be packing and arranging for some shipping. It is good to be busy and very satisfying mainly because we are learning so much about India, and about our new friends. You should know, everyone is so helpful and ready to help us with anything, ready to feed us or show us something. Ready to take us into their homes.
It is another hot day. This trip is hotter than our January 2004 visit during the World Social Forum. We are adjusting. After a week of little appetite but eating anyway because it is advised, my hunger is returning. Especially if you sit in an air conditioned restaurant you feel like you are hungry after awhile.
Finally the firecrackers and M-60’s are subsiding. A fire broke out in Nutan’s building, in which her flat is packed full of the clothing she and her producers have made. What started the fire? Can you guess? Yes, fireworks. The fire started in the flat above her and the occupants were not home. A neighbor saw flames and the building was evacuated and much damage to the flat over her’s. We had been scheduled to stay there at that time, but didn’t due to Nutan’s father being ill. I dread to think of hundreds of clothing items of Nutan and her producers being destroyed. Beth asked if the occupants of the apartment above had insurance. Parati replied that most people do not have insurance.
Nutan and Parati also said that the fireworks situation is way out of control and very dangerous. We felt free then to express that we would not visit Bombay during Diwali time again, as it is too loud and dangerous. Literally, boys will light M-60’s as you walk by, with no warning, and who knows, you could easily end up hurt or having hearing loss. Nutuna said now the schools are working to educate children about the dangers of the fireworks and teach them how to celebrate Diwali without them. The fireworks are a later addition to Diwali, obviously. And they start so many fires and troubles.
Later Beth and I will take our first visit to a hotel, where we stopped in January, called the Leela. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens especially designed with plants of the area. It is a very large and luxurious hotel, and we are just going for a treat to sit by the pool with just our feet in the water, and have a business meeting for a couple hours and for a reunion with the Leela.
I hope you are well and happy as we are. Namaste. love, patti