Razia, is a #chikankari #artisan living in old Lucknow and has been engaged with embroidery since childhood. She doesn’t even remember when and why she started embroidery, but the act in itself was so meditating that she never wanted to think beyond it. Over the years she has transferred her skills to many and continues to do so. She is a living example of belief in crafts and a league of people who believe that her craft is blessed by Almighty and will never let her be without basic supplies. Razia is not the only protagonist here, she is one among many artisans of Lucknow who are real custodians of craft, culture and hand skills. Walk through the narrow lanes of Khadra and every lane will take you to one such protagonist.
The belief of artisans in their craft had started dwindling when Government of India announced lockdown due to scare of COVID19. The artisans of Lucknow less than 50 USD a month and in this meagre amount can only live from hand to mouth. With no savings and resources, the situation became gloomy day by day. Public and private organisations and individuals have been making effort to give supplies to people in need. But due to various challenges and apathy of people with resources to grab anything that comes without price the help does not always necessarily reach the deprived. The power of community is then seen in such tough times. Razia and people like her give up their resources to support others. It is not easy to imagine plight of being without food sitting in air-conditioned rooms of our home and terming it as work from home. The power of survival becomes collective and individuality gets lost when it comes to facing challenges, and this is beauty of Indian artisan. We can only see the magnificence of what they embroider but not the vastness of their heart.
The team at #SangrahaKarigarAtelier which is primarily people coming from artisan background but have now also acquired design skills through various training conducted by the organisation and the Founder. This team wanted to create a similar example to set precincts of collaboration. Organisation had been depleted of all its funds due to collapse of market it its peak sales season and withdrawal of almost all orders by buyers. It was inevitable that they had no funds but were high on spirit and wanted to approach people to support artisan community at large. What they could give in return was something they are proud of, their craft, maybe gift that is handcrafted.
Research and development started on what could be the product that will become a #symbol-of-hope in this hour of crisis. Well-being lies in social distancing and protection and it was decided to add some delight to protective gear. Embroidered #Mask, but the product had to be perfected, adding filter pocket, perfecting the fit to seal the openings of face, yet retain appeal, comfort and the narrative. Layers of fabric, interlinings did the job.
Whilst a team was working on return gift economy search was on to find artisans who needed support with basic supplies. They were suggested to create mask as token of gratitude for those who supported. Various modes of fund collection were researched and then it was decided that this would be special initiative of the organisation which is legally a For-Profit organisation but works with social responsibility. The team decided that all would work voluntarily donate manhours to this initiative and products would be produced but not sold! They were gift and could only be gifted to contributors, those working in social development and Corona warriors.
The funds as voluntary payment for mask started coming in as we started discussing. With all the fabric in stock, all waste from cutting were recycled and mask printed. The first artisan that the team approached was Razia, who told us “I spent all the money I had for my medication to buy grocery for my neighbors as they were without food. Now with money that I get through this initiative I will be able to take my medicine.” This is the statement that moved us, and she won us with a smile that she will earn it and not take alms. Another artisan when offered money for treatment of his son wanted to return back the gratitude. Our decision to acknowledge the power of artisan to return back support with a token from the craft, that’s a gift from the Almighty, thus became firm and we decided that we will not donate but give supplies for work. We soon had a return gift of smile from Saima for supplies she was given with work to embroidered, the team takes it as their biggest earning for life.
This the realization of #‘POWER OF ARTISAN’ is what has come to us in last one week and wish to spread it through a ‘LIVE WIRE’ a term given to us by Laila Tyabji, who has been a great supporter for the initiative. Within 5 days of starting the initiative on ground we have been able to extend the embrace of #MaskForNeed to 22 families and we are growing with every five hundred rupee that comes in. Own a ‘Power of Artisan’ by associating, just ask as many embroidered mask as you want and contribute whatever you wish. It is priceless, it is means, it is power.
"न मैं मुखौटा, न मैं नकाब।
न मैं रॉक से, न मात्रा से।
मोको राख ले पास, मोको बाँट दे संसार में॥
मैं हूँ आस में, मैं तो तेरे विसवास में।
अमोल होये आभार में, होए प्रदान सत्कार में।
मैं तो हूँ वादे में, जनन के आधार में॥”
"Neither I am a mask nor a veil, neither you can have for money nor price.
You may keep me or gift me to the world, I am a Hope and a Belief.
I become priceless when taken in gratitude, and when given with honour.
I am a promise, I am a means for my creator."