Last evening, I went to the Coomaraswamy Hall (attached to the Prince of Wales museum), to inaugurate an exhibition and sale of work produced by the 600 women artisans who make up 'Sadhna' - which was started in Udaipur in 1988. The remarkable thing about 'Sadhna' is that all the women are co-owners and stake holders, who have worked exceedingly hard for their modest rewards. Today, their exquisite, hand -crafted quilts, home accessories as well as trendy apparel, have found markets in upscale stores like FABINDIA. But despite that, they lead a pretty grim existence, and I believe they deserve far greater recognition for their wonderful creations. Anywhere else in the world, consumers would have valued the beauty of their skills - after all, we are talking about one-offs that are embroidered and embellished by human hands, not machines. There is such a premium on such material in the West. Here, in India, we take it entirely for granted. Months of painstaking labour goes into a bright and beautiful patchwork silk quilt, held together by a simple running stich. Or the precision involved in the appliqued tussore sarees that drape like a dream and are timeless in appeal. I could have gone completely berserk buying every stole, dupatta and saree in sight. But I controlled myself and restricted the purchases to just three items.
The other good thing about Sadhna is that these women have now become decision makers within their community. They operate their own bank accounts, save for the future and are covered by insurance policies. Most importantly, they can hold their heads high and live a life of dignity. I was particularly impressed by one lady, a young widow who' s raising her son under daunting circumstances. Thanks to 'Sadhna', she is financially self- sufficient and free of tyranny that a closed society subjects helpless women to. While listening to her story, I found myself weeping along with her.... but my tears ( and hers!) dried soon enough when we saw the response to the works on display. There is hope - there is always hope.
Suchitra Krishnamoorthi ( Shekhar Kapur's ex) is often in the news for all the wrong reasons, poor girl. Last week it was a case of misinformation and a mistaken identity ( employing an underage maid), this week it is her revelation that she was propositioned by a big time producer( she has not named the guy), when she tried to make it in movies. The casting couch exists!!! Guys this is news!!! Geddit? It's a little like the Loch Ness monster. Or the Yeti. Nobody wants to confirm their existence, but nobody cares to deny it either. How very ho hum. Had she nailed the man openly, I'd say, 'Bravo!' This late revelation doesn't mean a thing. Film folks must be laughing their guts out - has even a single heroine been spared?? If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. If you don't want to bed a producer\director\music composer\actor\actor's chamcha\actor's spotboy\actor's father\chaiwallah\make- up man\cameraman\publicist\ - the list is endless, and could possibly include the dhobi on the set, stay home and as far away from Bollywood as possible.