Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most powerful symbols for eternal peace. At Sabarmati ashram today.
"Overwhelmed" is the only word that comes to my mind after visiting the Calico Museum of Textiles run by the Sarabhai Foundation.
Out of all the people, the creator of hundreds of thousands of journals and paper products, the person who has worked with reams of paper for the last decade or so ran short of it! The information flowing from Kamalini was such that I had to write it, I used business cards, scraps, invoices, hotel tags and envelopes. Paper was never this precious, you only realise its value when you don’t have it and to top it all, the ink in the pen also finished.
The information about different textiles was critical for me as this is the beginning of a new chapter in my design thinking and future range of products.
Kaushik Bhai was another visitor, he sensed my predicament and searched all his pockets for that elusive piece. The only paper he had was his salary slip; he gave that to me too. He manages a small museum in Surat owned by a large textile firm and this must be his 15th visit or so, every time he comes, he finds something he had not seen yet. He gave me a lot of information on different types of textiles that are found across Gujarat.
The walk was led by Kamalini Engineer, she is a walking encyclopaedia of the colossal collection of antique Indian textiles and art brought together by the Sarabhai family. Her style of talking is steeped in passion and it keeps you gripped for many hours. This must be the most extensive repository or collection of Indian textiles anywhere in the world.
You have to request for a visit in advance and the 15-20 people that they accept per day have to be present precisely between 10:15 – 10:30am. No phones and no cameras. You cannot leave in the middle and if you do, you have to write the reason in their book. At many places you need to remove your footwear so that dust stays out. The lights inside are very dim so that they don’t harm the exhibits and are only switched on for visitors. There are textiles that are over 300 years old and bronzes from the 8th century.
More from my scraps of paper about the guided tour and the textiles in a later post.
A few pictures of the entrance.
Kamla Ben and her mother passed-by and I quickly wanted to capture the image. I signalled if I could take one. She waived her hand and said wait while pulling her cart back. She superficially adjusted her sari and meekly asked if I wanted the "bhaji"(vegetable) basket on her head; I said, no Kamla Ben, just smile for me.
Here is this woman who is proud of what she does and is confidently pushing her cart with her mother sitting on it, somewhere she felt happy to be in front of a camera.
I bowed my head and bid adieu with a "Namaste".
I was strolling around Dhalgarwad market, looking for the right textile shopkeeper to answer a few questions about replacing plastic bags with more eco-friendly ones. I crossed many, looking for that empty shop which would give me and the shopkeeper ample time to discuss our agenda.
Some were empty but the owners did not look affable; some expressions were stern while some were the least bothered. Many shops went by and I was getting worried, occasionally looking ahead if the market was about to end. After criss-crossing a few lanes; I finally found my chap happily smiling with yellowing teeth. There was something about his demeanour that gave me the confidence to approach him. As I entered, I sensed he knew that I was not there to buy any of his hundred rupee cut-pieces; was I overdressed for the occasion? My fathers oft-spoken words were ringing in my ears, "Jaisa desh, waisa bhesh". I was already in so I started with a little introduction; I gave him my flashy card to break the ice and asked if he had a few minutes to spare.
Uvesh was his name, I discussed the nitty-gritty of getting him to convert to eco-friendly packaging. He laid down the challenges threadbare and had valid points. He was hesitant to get his picture clicked therefore I took shots of the rolls of fabric stacked together on the shelves. He looked young, in his 20’s so I asked him if he ever wanted to do something else, my question got him all nostalgic over his failed business of mineral water pouches.
While our conversation was progressing, he offered lemon tea. The cup was super-small compared to the humongous ones that I usually down. I looked at the tiny thing and wondered if I would be able to squeeze out a second sip, nevertheless I couldn’t refuse the offer from my dear host so I gulped it down.
It was time to say goodbye, I left telling him that this meeting was destined and we may never meet again.
The only memory that remains is of the pint-size tangy masala lemon tea!
I wanted to sample local Gujrati cuisine.
This place is second on Tripadvisor’s list of the best places to eat in Ahmedabad. It was a snack joint with a surprisingly modern look and feel. Clean, non-fussy, efficient and running in clockwork-precision but a tad expensive for a snack joint. The menu was simple but difficult to comprehend so I asked the gentleman to suggest the most popular dish, he pointed towards the most expensive one, I looked at him with suspicion, either it was to finish-off the non-moving dish or he had an inkling of my first visit here. I must confess…It was good and I washed it down with a glass of sugarcane juice.
Maybe someplace else tomorrow.