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When I was a little girl, I used to watch my mother use embroidery hoops to create beautiful designs on clean white cloths. Sometimes, she would knit sweaters, they’d have designs, sometimes, they’d just be plain, but beautiful.
Once she would prepare the perfect fitted sweater for me, I’d run around the colony and show it to everyone. Manpura village took me back to nostalgia lane, all thanks to Jaipur Rugs.
The Jaipur Rugs Company has been providing employment to over forty thousand artisans using weaving. And, there was no way I was going to miss out on the chance of talking to them.
I visited the Jaipur Rugs Company to see how the rural women were making their livelihood. The chirpy Mihika showed us the loom sitting close to the reception. “If you’re joining Jaipur Rugs, you’ve to learn how to weave, first. Otherwise, you can never understand how difficult it is for the everyday weavers. You’ve to pay visits to the villages. In fact, when I joined as an intern, I was predominantly asked if I had a problem with staying in villages.”
Interesting. I wanted to weave a little. Shall I tell you a secret? I plucked one of the threads of the loom like a guitar string wondering if it would produce some kind of music. It didn’t.
I met Kavita Chaudhary, the Design Director of Jaipur Rugs and asked her exactly how weaving was empowering the rural women of India.
“We provide looms and raw material to these women, and their job is to collect more women to create hand-knotted carpets. Every square inch of the carpet has 196 knots. In a standard-sized rug, there are more than two million knots. Earlier, the weavers were openly exploited because there were middlemen and contractors making the payments.
The whole process is entirely different with Jaipur Rugs. There’s a complete transparency when it comes to payment. When they have money to run their homes, they are empowered. When they can be confident, and laugh openly, they are empowered. They sit together all day; they talk, and they weave. And, in that state, they are empowered.”
Soon after, the company incorporated the idea of letting the Weavers design. “The initiative began a few years ago when we saw a woman’s dupatta embroidered with her friend’s name. She said she loved her best friend, and that’s why she had embroidered her name on her dupatta. We realized something really instinctive was happening there.
There were no more maps. We asked them to go with what their hearts say. And, then the creative juices began flowing. There was a little girl who created a beautiful rug that was peculiar.
The bottom half of the rug was a huge lotus with fish floating around it. It was beautiful and serene. The top half had a monkey sitting on a tree with a gun in his hand, shooting a rabbit.”
I was pleasantly impressed and wanted to meet the weavers immediately. Before we went forward, Mihika and Kamalika showed us how rugs were designed and finished.
We went into the basement first where sat piles of yarns, and do you know the first thing that came into my mind? I WANTED TO JUMP ON THEM. I asked Mihika and Kamalika if they’d ever done it.
Hmm, they were suspiciously quiet!
We saw where the carpets were designed.
And shoooooooo, we went. It took us about an hour to reach Manpura, and it was worth it.
The green and clean village welcomed us. We made our way into the first house where four looms had been set up, and a group of women was chatting and working. I went inside.
“Hello!” They responded. I let out a chuckle, and they reciprocated with a laugh.
“Where have you come from, Didi?” One of them chirpily asked.
“I’m from Jaipur, itself!” I answered.
There were hundreds of threads and yet, the women were able to weave exactly the right ones, without any errors.
Anu ji began weaving nine years ago, and she had a lot of stories bubbling inside her:
“I still remember getting my first salary. I gave it all at home. And today, I can spend money on myself. I buy bangles, bindis, earrings, all by myself. I still only let my husband buy beautiful sarees for me. I love his choice.”
One of Anu’s friends interrupted. “She doesn’t only buy bangles; she recently purchased a bed for herself!”
“Oh! She also bought a biiiiiiig dressing mirror for her room.”
Anu invited me to get a go at her bed some day!
I asked Mamta ji how long she had been working. She joked, “I work from day until night!”
Shanti ji, the Bunkar Sakhi, who supervises all the weavers took us around the village.
“Things were different earlier. We used to deal with contractors, and mostly the payment was delayed for months. Sometimes, due to errors, if something was wrong in the carpets. We’d never get the payments.
Since now we’re directly dealing with a Company, without any middlemen, we get a monthly salary, without any delay. We are always assured that the money will come.”
A lot of weavers in the villages are the sole wage earners. Their husbands are alcoholics and some of them don’t even know how many children they have. In such situations, these weavers manage their households, every day.
They go back home feeling content that they spent their entire day wisely, talking to their friends, sharing problems, and weaving rugs.
JWB salutes Jaipur Rugs for employing so many rural women all at once.
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