The ladies of the ring…. of responsibility
It’s not easy to come up with a blog which people will read and enjoy. I found that the doodle of ” from the horse’s mouth” would draw a comic curiosity & add a flavor to INDHA`s stories. It was almost ten odd years ago at our center at Village Daulatabad, while sitting with the women who were being trained on sewing & tailoring, I got into a dialogue with them about how would most of them use their skill for revenue generation. I found it was not easy for them. First of all they were bound by conservative norms, where women were not allowed to go beyond the village boundaries and were governed by strict societal norms. Of course there was a big issue of public transport and since I was not in a position to provide transportation for all of them, I just had to do something innovative. However, even after days of thinking I was unable to find a ready solution. On a lark, in my next meeting I spoke to the group about setting up this entity which could provide a platform for the women to work together to create products to sell using their traditional craft skills, without leaving their villages. In turn, we would find ways to sell their products. In addition, this entity would enable them to become micro entrepreneurs by enabling them with tools of trade. This idea was greeted by a whole lot of excitement and energy which was a great booster even though I wasn’t quite sure of where we were headed.
The question then came up as to what should we name this new entity? I noticed women walking in with their “MATKA” (pot) on their heads, something they still do in the villages to carry water. That intrigued me. Though I wasn’t sure “MATKA” sounded appropriate, but the cushion ring on their heads on which women carried their load which was called “INDHA” seemed to ring a bell. To me it denoted “Women carrying their own responsibilities” & having their own identity. It seemed a perfect fit and thus was born “INDHA” – the platform that allowed women to translate their home grown skills into beautiful products that could be sold. At that point in time, I didn’t know whether I would be able to live up to the magnitude of the responsibility I had taken on but seeing the energy of the women and their hope I couldn’t let go. India has many villages where there are numerous such women, bound by restrictions, limited by what they can do and yet they seek answers of a similar nature. With such a humble start, I never thought I will bring so many village women, (have lost count), under this “Ring of Responsibility”.
Indha and a Pilot, which is my day job, is an odd combination. However, I am a firm believer of the “Mysterious Magic of the Universe”. Therefore, I moved on with the belief that some good would come out of INDHA. I was proven right. A decade later, INDHA has gone on to become a household name amongst the women who create these beautiful handcrafted products and their buyers.
Beyond the evolution of INDHA, I also wanted to share with you a story of motivation and the birth of an INDHA PRODUCT. In 2007, Moushumi, my dear friend, got married and relocated to Delhi. Moushumi was born and brought up in West Bengal with a Bengali Father & a Sri Lankan mother. Her demeanor was such that we use to call her “Dada” that meant overall “Boss”, but she was nothing of that sort. She was mild, pleasant and always smiling. She joined us at INDHA, believing in what we did and wanted to do her best for the organization and the women who formed it. She loved dabbling with new designs, what more could be done with the skills the women brought to the table. For some reason she loved Table “Runners” – those colorful pieces of fabric we use to light up our side boards or tables was something we couldn’t miss . We went far and wide shopping for raw material, finding new designs, creating funky runners and many other home furnishing products. She brought in an innovative concept of a shop within a restaurant and set up an INDHA shop within a popular restaurant, “100 feet” in Indiranagar, run by her brother in law and sister. And she never gave up on telling me how INDHA could continue to innovate and grow. Moushumi did all this while life kept testing her in more ways than one specially her personal life. And in a little more than a year later suddenly one day, she left us forever. I was numb with shock for days. However, just like Moushumi never gave up on INDHA, the INDHA women also never gave up on her. This year on her birthday, which is today, we are proud to dedicate our new range of home furnishings to “Dada” – the brave girl who we loved and miss every day. Our latest range of furnishings is called “Moushumi”- OUR SALUTE to her and the memories she created for INDHA and our women.
In the last decade, I found many women like Moushami who are home- makers and have the aspiration, energy and talent to do something more. They are engaged in part time businesses, running food stalls , creating jewelry, designing clothes in between whatever else they need to do. Their courage, interest and determination makes them perfect members of the INDHA family, a platform where they could use their talents of design, art, craft and other creative skills to earn a livelihood without upsetting the apple cart of their daily lives. I encourage them to reach out to us and be part of this journey which could help them and INDHA bloom and grow.
We all have our share of serious stories, funny stories, sad stories. Always a mixed bag of experiences. Through this blog I hope to encourage others of our generation to create other INDHAs or be a part of this mission like Moushumi was and continue it after me. This blog is also for many latent entrepreneurs like the women I meet everyday across India whose lives are similar to those who first made INDHA and are bravely trying to find a solution to not let life beat them down. Here’s to more women wearing INDHA- the ring of responsibility- like a crown of honor.Capt. Indraani Singh Senior AirIndia Pilot:Founder/Managing Trustee-Literacy India Founder-Indha Craft