I was on 7-days’ vacation last week with my family to Kolkata, my first ever visit to the City of Joy. Completing my saree # 3 was also planned during this vacation period, so I carried along with me a black blouse, standard one to go with all.
On our 5th day of the trip, we travelled to the home town of Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore’s Bolpur- Santiniketan, a rich land of culture and education in West Bengal. There, I got the opportunity to meet some women of Bolpur, who are associated with selling of a range of sarees from cotton, silk, Batik and Kantha sarees through a small shop within the premises of Pancham Bhojanalaya cum Guest house. I bought a cotton saree and some Kantha work clothes for myself from there. The only Kantha work I had before was a very pretty salwar kameez in crepe bought from Nalli in Connaught Place, New Delhi as a part of my wedding preparation, but I’d lost that while shifting places between Bangalore and Gurgaon couple of years back. So, getting original Kantha work of Bengal, from one of its districts is no less than a prized possession for me now.
The same day, I met more women from Birbhum district, who makes the sarees in various forms… from cotton, cotton-silk, silk, Batik and the beautiful Kantha Sarees. I was dis-heartened to hear that even though it takes 5 full days for them to complete one Kantha saree, they are paid only Rs. 90 for that one Saree, when we buy it for not less than thousands of rupees. The only relief is that they have an easier way to make their prepared sarees reach to the market through a shop right opposite of their workplace called, Amar Kutir, once a place of refuge for independence movement activists that has been turned into a cooperative society for the promotion of arts and crafts. It is located on the banks of the Kopai River, about 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) from Santiniketan. Finished products of Amar Kutir are also sold through government cottage emporiums across major Indian cities. There, women working behind those sarees travel daily for almost an hour on their bi-cycles to reach and go back from their workplace to their respective homes. I was so proud to see women even in their old age working hard with their hands to prepare something that makes other women look better, true sign of women empowerment and rich culture of India.
As we had a lot to cover in our 7 days’ vacation to Kolkata, I was waiting to wear the saree that I’d bought from Bolpur to add another number for me to the 100sareepact of the year. True to the words, as you seek, so you get, while waiting for our train to arrive on the railway platform, to return to Delhi from Kolkata, I met another beautiful mind, Dr. Reshmi Sen Sharma, a senior professional in clinical psychology. After exchanging few basic information about ourselves, we could see that we had some common interest areas, like children education and development, belief in ‘nature and nurture’ and spirituality. It is very rare to find people on a public platform with whom you can connect so easily and instantly. Then our train journey even became more enjoyable by talking about our common interest areas, and I was amazed to hear her work stories, that make her travel extensively, all for a noble cause to help children and adults with life skill training.
She helped me drape the same saree in less than 2 minutes and that made me complete my saree # 3 towards 100sareepact of the year, 2015.
Not only I was able to meet some real amazing Indian women in this maiden trip to Kolkata, but also found a friend in Reshmi. True to its name, City of Joy, it gave us one of the best memories to cherish in our journey of Incredible India.