Day -4: Ahead of delving into the lived experiences of Artisans

It has been nearly two years, give or take a couple of days.

It was in May, 2014 that colleagues and I first visited the Rajasthan in order to study hand-woven carpets, the company that gets them manufactured in the fair-trade manner, and how they do that and still manage to be the largest exporter of the hand-woven carpets from India.

Source: Jaipur Rugs Foundation

Source: Jaipur Rugs Foundation

In recurring email/phone/skype interactions and iterative visits, I get bigger and bigger glimpse of the lives and work of weavers and other artisans. And I want to know more.

The root of my motivation is in their happiness, seeming comfort with their lives, and generosity. Touched by those, I want to go for more. A deeper, more substantial understanding: not just fleeting images.

  1. Smile:

When I visited them last, they were warm (their children were curious), slightly shy, but welcoming, and smiling – always smiling in a way that took the unfamiliarity out of the equation.  At that time, my purpose was to see first hand, how a carpet came into being, right from the form of bales of wool.

There are wool sorters, carders, spinners and more before it actually gets into the hands of a weaver. These people make something like Rs.200-400 per day. That, with unstable pattern of their working, and disguised unemployment because of micro farming would put them now-in-no-out of poverty line. Yet, as I saw them, moved among them, talked to them, they were going about their business – no one complained or expressed dissatisfaction, or any such thing. As I talked to a number of artisans, I felt that they knew I was there to learn about their work, and they let me understand, by taking time off their work to let me in.

Farewell!

Farewell!

So, my first question was, ‘what makes these artisans happy?’ I am fully aware that my interaction with them was short, superficial in a way, and we had no relation: they had no reason to share their deep anguish if they had one. So, the best way to find out was to spend more time with them.

Stay-at-home mother works and earns!

Stay-at-home mother works and earns!

2.  Acceptance of life as it was:

I saw the artisans in their different settings in my first and second visit. The ones I talked to               were: a lady who was a friendly quality inspector who helped weavers, a hand-spinner of wool,          and another friendly quality inspector who helped the wool processors.

As they showed me how they worked, they also talked here and there, which touched me as                 sense of looking forward – or optimism, what seemed to me to be their natural sense of                         direction that built on what was yesterday, flowing into where they were, going on into what               would be. That gave me my second, third, and fourth questions: ‘What is the meaning of life to           these women? What is the meaning of work to them? How does work fit into their life?’

Okay, as it is

Okay, as it is

 

Invite for home stay

Invite for home stay

3. Generosity:

I would be naive if I simply use cliched expressions such as ‘I was welcomed with open arms’ by the artisans in my first two trips. the fact is, I do not know. At the same time, no Indian would be surprised at the fact that in rural India, generosity and hospitality have nothing to do with the family income. I saw that generosity. To be specific, when the friendly inspector of the wool process took me to her place and emphatically invited me to stay overnight. For her, if I was visiting the village, I could stay for the night, do some more of observation, and then go the next day at leisure.

Or, another lady who was spinning wool at her home, and she insisted that I at least take tea – or something – since I had visited her home. More than them, I was conscious of the fact that they averaged about Rs. 300/- per day in earning. That’s less than six US dollars a day. How could I cost them by accepting their hospitality?  So, that question took me back to my questions on the meaning of life, work, and how one fitted into the other.

Plenty of space in hearts

Plenty of space in hearts

Additionally, if I could gather some more understanding about their values, it would be great.

That’s my log for the day-4.

Tomorrow is Day -3, and I am going to post some summary on conceptual framework that would guide my three-week stay-cum-study.

 

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4 thoughts on “Day -4: Ahead of delving into the lived experiences of Artisans

  1. Subhash Yadav says:

    What is the meaning of work to them? How does work fit into their life?’

    “…the modern economist has been brought up to consider ‘labour’
    or work as little more than a necessary evil. From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a
    minimum if it cannot be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a ‘disutility’; to work is to make a
    sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice. Hence the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment.
    The consequences of these attitudes both in theory and in practice are, of course, extremely far-reaching. If the ideal with regard to work is to get rid of it, every method that ‘reduces the work load’ is a good thing. The most potent method, short of automation, is the so-called ‘division of labour’ and the classical example is the pin factory eulogised in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.’ Here it is not a matter of ordinary specialisation, which mankind has practised from time immemorial, but of dividing up every complete process of production into minute parts, so that the final product can be produced at great speed without anyone having had to contribute more than a totally insignificant and, in most cases, unskilled movement of his limbs.

    The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least
    threefold: to give a man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to
    enable him to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence.
    Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal: it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.”

    Excerpted from ‘Buddhist Economics’ by E F Schumacher
    Apologies for the long excerpt. I do not know whether blog etiquette allows such long comments or not. I was unable to reduce it because of the strong flow of wisdom in the words.

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    • … My favorite! Thanks for reminding me of this profoundly beautiful book. Etiquette should not hinder the sharing of this ideas, which need to be known more widely. Please do not bother about the length of your comments — at least in this space 🙂 I appreciate it.

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  2. Zehra Chhapiwala says:

    The lesser a person has the more giving that person is. Do not know the connection but this has been a personal experience. Not just that but as you have observed the more unfortunate the circumstances the more optimistic is their outlook towards life. Who we consider wretched are actually more happy and hopeful than a lot of us who are otherwise well endowed . You have again given me lots to chew on Margie ji. Totally live your posts as they pique me in various ways

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    • Your appreciation encourages me, Zehra. This is a part of the homework before I hot the ground. I believed that putting it up on the blog will help me improve the study through comments and questions. Thank you!

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