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Weaving the Social Fabric with Compassionate Warp and Dedicated Weft

TRINJAN is the symbol of caring and sharing in Punjabi community. Under this umbrella, women used to spin, weave, knit, sing, celebrate, appreciate and create different kinds of artistic products. It used to be a platform of collective teaching and learning with a close association of nature and culture. The type of development model which is being adopted in last 5-6 decades didn’t allow women to enhance the collective working and its spread to the next generation. Younger generation is getting school and college education where these traditional creative skills are not considered worthy. That’s why the spinning wheel which is a symbol of life is being burnt by people in chullah as fuel wood. Same has happened with the handlooms and other material used for handicrafts and textile items.

With this background and zeal to prevent this great traditional art from being vanished, KVM started working for its revival. For us, these are not mere products that come out, there is a connect of human and nature that can be clearly seen along with the association and owness. In order to prevent this heritage, Organic Desi Cotton is being grown by the farmers, procured by KVM, hand spun, naturally dyed and hand woven by the rural artisans. Along with this there are artisans who do hand embroidery, make different grass crafts and other decorative products. All these skills have been promoted and developed under TRINJAN.

It has freedom for the artisans as they can work from home, most of the artisans are women. It’s a very good opportunity for the livelihood generation and pass on this skill to the next generation. KVM believes that revival of traditional, slow, natural and cultural wisdom shall help addressing the physical, mental and emotional health crisis that people have been going through.

This is a people’s initiative where KVM is acting as a platform only. We urge you to come forward and support the work in whatever capacity you could i.e. financially, providing marketing, documentation of folklore associated, reaching out to more people, helping in providing the required infrastructure and by visiting any part of this value chain any time. It’s a call to all those concerned and worried about the contemporary model of development to contribute for the change we all wish to have for a better world.

Rimpy Kaur

Rimpy Kaur

Rimpy Kaur of Kotli village in Muktsar district is 18 years old and has a BSCFT. With her background in fashion, it is not surprising that Rimpy took to natural dying; and she has developed a quick passion for it. She began practicing natural dying only 5-6 months ago, learning from a KVM training. She uses all-natural plant materials to make her dyes for the thread, including marigold flowers, carrots, onion skin, babul tree bark (gum arabic), pomegranate skin, and eucalyptus bark and leaves. She explains that for barks like the babul or eucalyptus, she will soak the bark for a month, then she will bring the water to a boil. After this boiling, she strains the bark out and puts the thread into the water. After 2-3 hours, she brings this to a boil again. Finally, after this, she pulls the thread out and rinses it with fresh water. She wanted to learn how to do this because she likes the idea of using natural dyes. She says it is better for the skin and to reduce skin irritations and infections. She also has developed this work into a source of income. She wants to continue to do it in her house, noting that it benefits her social life as people come to visit her and see her work, though her friends cannot believe what she creates is done all naturally. She says that now she will happily teach anyone who wants to learn how to do this and she will continue on with her work, feeling proud that she is becoming known in her community for her work in natural dying. It is an example of a connection to and revival of traditional practices that can be applied to the needs of today’s world and have multiple health, social, and economic benefits as well.

Gagandeep Kaur

Gagandeep Kaur

Gagandeep Kaur is 26 years old, has a 10th grade education, and lives in the village of Kotli in Muktsar district. She is Mistri caste and has 6 members in her family. She has been practicing embroidery since she was 15 years old, learning both from school and from her mother. She also learned stitching from her sister. She says she is always doing at least one of these handcrafts and laments that in the past, everyone did work by hand but now everyone wants the work done by machines. She says, smiling, that in her school, she was really good at embroidery. So much so, that many girls wanted her to do their embroidery homework for them. She enjoys the work. The work provides a value to her household because she brings more income in. She also feels that it is beneficial to her social life because many people know her and come to her house to visit her and see her embroidery. Gagandeep is quiet and does not share much; she comes across as shy. But in her few words, she still shows the layers of benefits to doing handcraft work; in this case embroidery and stitching. Just in her twenties, she is not only adding to her family’s financial well-being but is creating beautiful works while reducing her stress and feeling good about her place in community.

Aasha Rani

Aasha Rani

Aasha Rani is 70 years old and lives in Jaitu, Faridkot. She has no formal education, and there are 5 members in her family. She ta ught herself how to weave baskets and similar crafts when she was 15 years old and has been doing it ever since. Since the beginning, she has made them mostly to sell. She can usually make 2 bowls or one larger plate in a day. She goes to different places near the river to collect the raw material of date palm leaves. She works 8-9 hours each day making the baskets and other woven crafts. While she often has back pain if she is working for a while, if she does, she will get up and walk around and it will feel better. It does not deter her from the work, though, because doing the work relieves her tension. She says that she doesn’t feel the stress of the house when she is making baskets. She feels that because of her work, she is physically and mentally fit. Aasha also talks about the health benefits of using her woven crafts. She says that many people do not want to use plastic, they prefer her baskets. If we place chapati in this craft, she adds, we reduce diseases [because it’s not putting hot food into plastic]. She says that they put fruit in the baskets; they put everything in them. It’s very beneficial to the house to have them to use. This work shows the diversity of benefits from economic, mental health well-being, ecological and general health more broadly in the use of the crafts over plastic, and ties to cultural tradition.

M​anjit Kaur

M​anjit Kaur

M​anjit Kaur is 60 years old from the village of Ramuana in the Faridkot district of Punjab. She is a basket and bowl maker as well as a kitchen gardener. When she was young, her aunt and grandmother taught her how to make the woven baskets from the straw grass; everyone would sit together and make them. She says that now people don’t sit together anymore. They could but the younger generation are not interested in learning the craft. When she does this work, she says it makes her feel good. She will complete a basket in 3-4 days, more if there is a lot of housework. To begin, she soaks the grass for one day and then it is ready to be used to make the basket. Manjit does not have free time on her hands. There is always work to do and she does everything in her house. But she feels that it is good for health to have good work. The impacts of both having an organic kitchen garden and continuing to incorporate her traditional basket weaving into her daily life are clear for Manjit. They are holistically beneficial to Manjit herself as well as her family and the broader community and planet.

Ramandeep Kaur

Ramandeep Kaur

Ramandeep Kaur is 23 years old and lives in Kotli, Muktsar. She has a BCA degree. There are 4 members in her family. Three to four years ago she began spinning. She says that, to her, spinning is both a hobby and a profession. In her family, in every generation – her mother, her grandmother, etc. – each one spun and she learned from them. But, she doesn’t have any friends her age who also spin. At times when she feels stress, she will spin and feel better. Ramandeep talks about KVM coming to meet her to see the young girl who was spinning. She was so happy and honored that they came to see her and that that they gave her work. Appearing shy and quiet, Ramandeep answers questions with short sentences. Yet, she is clearly proud of her work and commitment to spinning. She talks about the financial benefit of treating this like a career and being able to bring extra income in. Additionally, though, even in her young twenties, she is aware of how much better, physically and mentally, she feels when she spins each day. Furthermore, she is able to articulate both the importance of carrying on this family and cultural tradition, noticing that her generation – those around her – are not necessarily doing the same.

Sinderpal Kaur

Sinderpal Kaur

Sinderpal Kaur is 57 years old and lives in the village of Kotli, Muktsar district. Fifty years ago, as a girl, she learned how to weave. It took her about a month to learn the basics of the craft from her mother and after that, she continued on, becoming more skilled at it. She says that when she does this work, she feels better and that it is good for her health. She says that it reduces her pain. When she sits idly, then she thinks about her worries and her stresses. When she is weaving, she doesn’t think about these other things but can just focus on the work in front of her. Sinderpal also values this work because it supports her financially. In her opinion, doing work by hand is good and she prefers this. It also has become the way in which she has developed a good reputation – in her village, she is known as a weaver. She says that the younger generations are not interested in connecting with this traditional craft work but she works hard to try to make that connection. If the youth are willing to learn, then she will teach them.

Gurcharan Kaur

Gurcharan Kaur

Gurcharan Kaur lives in Kotli, Muktsar and is 60 years old. She lives alone and has no formal education. When she was 15 years old, her older sister taught her how to weave and she has been weaving ever since. She now can complete one full piece in about two weeks or so, working on them for about 4 hours each day. Gurcharan also says that she feels better when she is doing it. When she stops, she says that her body also stops and doesn’t feel as well. She continues advocating that doing work by hand is best. Indirectly, this is what this case study highlights. It is not just about the weaving being a source of income and improved economic stability, but that the work that is being done by hand is also maintaining a simplicity to life that is often overlooked.

Sukhjit Kaur

Sukhjit Kaur

Sukhjit Kaur is 60 years old and lives in Kotli, Muktsar. She has no formal education. She began weaving when she was 20 years old, learning from her mother, and has been doing it ever since. She says that she does it to make things that she needs in her house and that it is also a helpful income source – making money by doing weaving for other people as well. It takes her about 20 days to make one weaving and she feels that it is helpful to her household income and that she is satisfied with the money that she makes. She also feels that it connects her to her family, from the past and into the future. Now, her daughter-in-law has shown interest in learning to weave. Additionally, she says, that it connects her to her culture. In the past, she says, everyone did work by hand but now no one wants to do this work. She thinks that if we want to connect the younger generation to it, we need to be doing it and teaching them while we are doing it. This case shows the passion that can be evoked when someone not only conscientiously benefits from their work (i.e. economically) but enjoys it in a way that they look forward to time spent in the process itself.

Mahinder Kaur

Mahinder Kaur

Mahinder Kaur is 60 years old and has 9 members in her family. Her aunt taught her to weave when she was 15 years old and she has been doing it ever since. She says that in the past, everyone did work like this and that if younger generations are going to continue, the work needs to be done in front of them, so they can see it. Mahinder believes that doing work by hand is good and it makes her happy. She can make 200 /- per day by this doing this work. As compared to the past, she does less work now, because she is older. Now she works an hour or two in a day. But it continues to keep her connected to her culture and because of it, her community sees her in a positive light. She says that because she started doing this so many years ago, everyone knows her as a weaver.

Gurjit Kaur

Gurjit Kaur

Gurjit Kaur is 40 years old, lives in village Kotli, Muktsar. She says that in the past, everyone did work like weaving but now, no one is interested. But Gurjit believes that doing work by hand is good. She says that now that the machines have come, they have taken away the importance of handwork. She also is able to help pay for her house expenses from the money that she earns from weaving. Weaving also makes her feel like there is more of a purpose in her life because many people in her village know her as a weaver and they like her work. Still, there are times when people do not pay her properly and so she appreciates that KVM gives her work, paying her well and on time. She is part of a family of craftswomen who weave and embroider, and they continue an intergenerational connection to this cultural work while also doing it together.