6 minute read
Aeshaane is not a single piece of fabric; we are many bits, many colours and many sizes all woven together with one common thread of solidarity. It doesn’t end with just our weavers and printers, in fact it starts right there; their spouses, their children and parents all under one blanket of togetherness. Family isn’t always blood. It’s a band of characters trudging through life together, holding each other’s back, embracing their differences and celebrating each other like one big happy unit. This one’s mine and I am proud to say that my tribe has been with me since our inception in 2008.
Meet Deepak, our one man army, who hails from a remote town called Baishali in Bihar. He is multifaceted and doubles as our hand-screen printer when he is not being the finishing in-charge (that involves steaming, washing, quality check and ironing). An extremely gentle and caring person, he doesn’t shy away from hard work. Always the first to come up with new ideas and designs, he calls aeshaane his home away from home.
Meet Rupa, who is an extremely hands-on mother, besides being a talented homemaker. She greets me with a warm smile every afternoon, as she brings delicious home cooked food for her husband Deepak. Lunchtime is fun, as we all share simple meals and chat, taking turns to play with the little fellow, Raj. She always packs extra for the crew, and her "Dal Parontha" is my all-time favourite!
Ten years ago I had gone to stay in a village called ‘Liluah’ to learn the art of hand block printing. In a slum close by, where the magical journey was to unfold, I met this young lad in his teens. He was scantily clad and hunger struck, eyes staring at me every single day through my six month long tenure, begging me to take him along, hoping for a better life. I promised him that some day when I nurture my dream, he would be the first one to join me. Few years later, when aeshaane was born in my backyard, I did not forget those eyes! We carved our first block together out of a potato in my Mother-in-law’s kitchen and the rest is history! Raj, as we all lovingly call him, is my pillar of strength who can whip up any concoction with the magic of his hands. Today after a decade of working with us, he stands tall among his peers, better known as ‘Masterji’. Recently, when he paid the final instalment towards buying a house in his hometown ‘Kajari Bujurg’, in Baishali, Bihar with his savings from the workshop, who could be more proud of him than me!
The oldest of the three siblings, Bachchu joined us a decade ago as my first printer, when I just had one block table in my backyard. He is a master artisan, who is a huge part of my body of work. In fact, he was the one who inspired me to go to Paris with my designs. He is fun-loving, meticulous and loves experimenting with new designs and blocks ever so often, that it’s almost exhausting to match up to his creative stimulus.
All of 4 feet tall, when I first met Amit, I wondered if he would actually be able to stand and print across the width of the giant block table. But his printing prowess left me spellbound, as he turned out to be quite a man of facile and true intellect. Thorough in the art and techniques of hand block printing, he could come up with the brightest of ideas, on how to use natural materials like paper or rope to create patterns. A complete ‘Showman’ at that, he was always ready to have an audience!
“Salaam alaikum!” says Mohammad Ali who is an avid fan of Bollywood music with all the latest gadgets in place. When he tells me that our workshop is his Mecca and kindness his religion, I know that we must’ve done something right to have him walk by our side on this entrepreneurial journey! A master block printer who is the oldest amongst the lot, is slightly moody, but loves telling stories. A perfectionist at printing, his alignment is effortless and he never fails to go that extra mile when it comes to his work.
Faruq bhai has an on and off stint with aeshaane, since he keeps travelling often to his village to take care of his ailing parents. He has an amazing sense of humour and when he’s around, the mood at the workshop is really light, everyone’s always cracking up! A charmer and an excellent artist, he has a broader horizon and can envision any design with the minutest details, with effortless precision.
The third out of four siblings, three embraced into our family, Pankaj is our go to person for everything. If you happen to visit our workshop, you can hear everyone calling out for ‘Pankaj’ relentlessly. He is a hands on dyer, helps Masterji, the printers and makes fabulous Masala chai (Tea brewed with aromatic spices)! I call him ‘The Little Tornado’, since he always has his hands full. Even during lunch break, you can catch him drying out some base cotton fabric used for printing or running errands. Recently, he just tied the knot in his village Bidopur and as he took his vows witnessed by the entire tribe, my heart swelled as I saw my little boy now become a man! I still remember his mother handing him over to me years ago, urging me take good care of him, as I felt the huge responsibility to shape him and give him a meaningful life. Today, as weaving the Ahimsa into our everyday lives gives us a sense of purpose, we can’t wait till his bride Rajni joins our family and feels the same connect with these ‘Threads of Thought’. All, while I bear the burden of welcoming her fourth into our inner circle once again!
PANKAJ’S ‘MASALA CHAI’ RECIPEAn aromatic ‘Masala chai’ is perfect for any time of the day! Try his tasty Indian spiced version in just 10 minutes, serves two!
- 2 cups water
- 2 - 3 green cardamoms
- 3 - 4 black peppercorns
- 2 inches ginger
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp Assam tea
- 1/2 cup milk
With these FEW SIMPLE STEPS, he worms his way into your heart!
- Start by boiling water in a pan. Simultaneously boil milk in another pan.
- Crush the ginger, peppercorns and cardamom seeds coarsely to bring out the flavours, add to the boiling water along with sugar.
- Now lower the flame, let the spices simmer in water for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the tea leaves and turn off the flame. If you prefer a stronger brew, then let it rest for a few more minutes.
- Now add the hot milk and bring to a boil. For a vegan chai, soy, almond or cashew milk may also be used.
- Pour the tea through a strainer directly into a cup. Serve ‘Masala chai’ steaming hot with Indian snacks or cookies. The boys love their chai with ‘Samosas’ (a savoury delicacy)!
Sangi who has traversed this journey with aeshaane as a finishing artisan, also doubles as our domestic help. Realising her potential to sew and mend, I constantly kept urging her to label our garments, simultaneously training her in fine detailing. Today after few years, the finishing is immaculate and her story has encouraged many women in her tribe to join our workforce. They gather around post noon after completing their jobs as housekeepers in the neighbourhood, to make our upcycled silk cocoon necklaces. Educating her three children even in the face of utmost adversity, she is my go to inspiration to never give up in life.
By buying from us you are helping all of them nurture their small dreams like being able to send their children to school or send money home to their village. So each time you wear Aeshaane, remember the happy smiles that you’ve put on their faces, made a difference in the lives of their children and families. Your support helps us in creating more job opportunities for the craftsmen and help them live better and more meaningful lives.
Every time a box of valuables arrives from the village, I can’t keep calm. It’s so rewarding, to be surrounded by my little treasure troves of irregular circles and squares. The fragrance of freshly cut teakwood, in tandem with the mesmerising designs keeps me spellbound and completely distracted! I love to savour each moment of pulling out the pieces carefully and placing them together like small jigsaw puzzles. I feel lost like a little child in a candy store. Welcome to the world of slow.. where everything takes a backseat including ‘The Little person’ at home.
Today, a hand-carved wooden block is valued as a piece of art, worthy of display on its own. Manoo bhai, is a proud member of the entire community of block makers, who is engaged in this very special craft for over twenty years. He uses simple tools to cut and carve the wood, and ensures that the block forms a perfect repeat when used on a length of fabric. Each block has inbuilt guides that enables the printer to achieve accuracy during printing. Teak, being strong and resistant to water, is the wood of choice for making blocks. Bhai crafts around 50 odd blocks every month, from the narrow by-lanes of a little workshop, in a charming town called Srerampore in Bengal. He quips that I am his only client who sends him natural leaves to make blocks, and after a decade long journey of being together, he now understands my fascination with fauna!