Namaste Tribe! Greetings from India!
I’m sure most of us have either climbed up hills and mountains (or trees!) to be awestruck by the view from the top, or travelled to far off destinations to marvel at things. But how many of us have ever felt like that on a daily basis?
I was born and raised in Mumbai, India. A city that literally never sleeps, and everyday when I wake up, I know there is something new and different about it. Having lived in the city for two-thirds of my life (as of now) I must admit that in the past, stereotypes and pre-conceived notions may have inhibited my ability to appreciate my city and its ever-evolving awesomeness.
It is said that it’s the obvious things that are the most difficult to see, just as plain as the eyes on my face. But how much of my eyes do I see, unless someone holds a mirror up to me?
Every time I go out and experience my city with someone that’s new to it, it’s a whole new city that I see. I go down streets that I’ve never walked before, see buildings and houses that I never paid any attention to, pass and notice places that I didn’t even know existed!
Everything changes! (It is true what they say about needing an outsider’s perspective. It’s like hitting the refresh button every now and then).
Just short of two years ago, I met Jake while he was working on bringing Ethnotek to the world, and was fortunate enough to make a trip to Bhuj and meet with some extremely skilled weavers and craftspeople. It was an eye opening and humbling experience that heavily influenced my view on crafts in my country.
Common misconceptions throughout urban India are that artisans and craftspeople are doing what they do, because they are not educated and have no other means of livelihood. Wrong. Women in rural India are not given the same respect as women in urban India. Wrong again.
Shamji's Home in BhujodiOver the span of the few days I spent out in the weaving village of Bhujodi, I heard and saw a lot – but two comments made by a weaver Shamji, will stick with me forever.
I thought about how awesome it would be if many more could be exposed to the same perspective and point of view – but found one glitch. We’re so sure of what we’ve learnt as children, rights and wrongs that were drilled into us, or stories we’ve heard all our lives, that we don’t feel the need to go out and challenge that view.
Today, I’d like to also share the story of a friend who made me question the box I’ve put myself in. This is Hannah's story.
Reliving her experience through one of our conversations, she recalled that a lot of people (such as myself) warned her of the dangers of being a lone female traveller with only a cycle and bag pack at her rescue. She heard the warnings and stories with patience, and even though she’s someone who enjoys her own company, she invited friends along on her cycling expedition. But with friends that were unable to make it, she was left with 2 options – skip the trip, or go solo.
As Hannah said, “You could be walking on the street in broad daylight and something could happen to you – so I don’t know. I just feel like its better to live. I think most people in my experience have been amazing and friendly and you meet the warmest people doing something that’s maybe a little off.”
Everyone gave her stereotypical warnings before she left like ‘don’t talk to strangers’. She calls it stupid and funny advice. “What do you mean don’t talk to strangers? There’s only going to be strangers from this point on, I have to talk to everybody”.
Using google maps (a tool accessible to all of us) she planned her route in advance, booking home stays for every night. Armed with a 3G-equipped iPad and 3 mobile phones (all of which managed to lose cellular reception together, she adds) she set off on this adventure.
She experienced India in a way most Indians haven’t; by giving people and their goodness the benefit of the doubt. Experiencing Indian hospitality first hand as several people (economically far worse off than her) invited her to eat with them and let them cook her a meal. People came out of their homes and stood with her under a shelter in the pouring rain, just to have a chat and know more about what she was doing.
What’s most amazing is that my friend Hannah, is not Indian. She doesn’t speak any of the south Indian languages, or even Hindi for that matter. But THAT is what allowed her to make this trip in the first place – free from a mindset full of preconceived notions most Indians would have. Having lived between the USA and India for the past 3 years, she describes this trip as her fondest memory of India. Experience the adventures through her Cycle Shakti blog (The Hindi word ‘Shakti’ means strength).
Jake and Hannah got me questioning the stereotypes in my head, and helped me see my country in a new way. I gained a fresh perspective to my world and even started defining myself better.
So, what does this all mean to you? I encourage you to - urge you to - try something new in your city/town/country or something that may be too normal and usual for you to have paid attention to it in the first place. Experience a different pace of life. I promise you will be surprised, excited and enamored JUST the same way you are at the top of a mountain ;).
If you're a Tribe member interested in writing for our blog, feel free to email us at pr(at)ethnotekbags.com. We'd love to hear from you.
Open your mind and heart to new things and new people...
The Tribe Scribe
A little bit about the guest Tribe writer, Arushi:
Here's a picture of Arushi from the hills in front of her great grandmother's home where she stays while working with the village women on saree blankets.
Arushi is an Indian product designer who likes to define herself as a "people-centered designer and maker". She never ceases to be amazed by the wonders India beholds. She's not exaggerating when she describes India in saying that the people, language/dialect, food and crafts change literally every 100-200 kilometers. Arushi is currently working with a group of women in omen in rural Maharashtra to empower them to be more economically independent through making what they know best - 'godhdis' - traditional quilts made from old sarees. In Arushi's words: "It's an amazing and challenging experience, as I fill several roles - sales and marketing person, funds manager, designer, counsellor, delivery woman and friend!" She loves handmade things and is intrigued about the story behind each item...in fact, her happy place is full of every conceivable craft supply on earth.
We leave you with these powerful words from Arushi herself:
"We all go through everyday with preconceived notions – notions of how it is, how it should be, what will happen next and many more. That’s why we go through every day and don’t really live it."