The Optimist Citizen

A new ‘thought’ by a quartet of youngsters is bringing rural artisans to limelight

 An idea just crossed my mind!- That’s how most innovations lay down a first foundation in your mind. But, just having a vision doesn’t really work every time. Portrayal of that vision is equally important to get the idea delivered well. I have been working up my mind since quite a few days now, wondering what to cover for my first blog. And finally, I got this ‘thought’. Yes, a thought about writing the most inspiring story I came across lately. It is about four such youngsters who come from varied socio-cultural backgrounds and come collectively to work on a singular thought that can bind communities together. 

The one who acted as my source for this wonderful idea is my best friend who is a part of this initiative. Her name is Shaoni Pramanik and she is from West Bengal. Shaoni was in town for her visits in rural Bengal when I thought of meeting my busy friend for a cup of coffee. Surprisingly so, her other teammates were also accompanying her for the visit. I could not afford to miss the chance of meeting these creative souls. Her other friends include Aayushi Maheshwari (Delhi), Shailja Carashar (Ahmedabad) and Gourav Mandloi (Nimar).

Being from a background where their main focus of study was ‘Heritage’, their prime intention was to contribute to the society in a way that the rich culture of our country is preserved and can also improve the scope of livelihood for artisans who are physical harbinger of that heritage. 

These four fresh post graduates dreamt separately, until the zeal to have a social impact played the card. They are basically a group who has been travelling across the country collecting details about various art forms that are on the verge of extinction. They plan to work on them in a way that the artisans are able to earn out of it. Their idea is to promote the already existing cultural treasure to the modern world and create a social awareness through the endeavor. They like to call their venture “Khayaal- A thought”.

‘Khayaal’ was born in the month of May, 2018, on the occasion of World Museum Day. It is a social enterprise that works under four distinct territories namely ‘Tohfa‘, the product wing, ‘Biradari‘, the education wing, ‘Iraadein‘, the event wing and ‘Pehchaan‘, a virtual awareness wing. As Aayushi says, “We want to provide a platform for dialogue between people from different sections of the society”.

One thing that struck a chord was the fact that they are doing it partly by their own money and then started a little fundraising and went through a lot of hurdles on a personal level. However, nothing could stop them from establishing their idea. Today, they have covered 17 cities, involved 12 craft practices with 10 handmade products and have 10 institutional collaborations. All of this and more in just six months! Their beneficiaries mostly cover old aged women who inherited the art from their ancestors. 

When I asked Shaoni about the feedback they might receive from their consumers, she replied, “I cannot tell you in numbers or figures but it’s more of an identity build up and a confidence in the practices that the people had been following without any recognition for a long time”.  A heartwarming indication came as a feedback when of the older artisans, a Dadi (Granny), was excited about showcasing her work to the world.  he question was, “Will my Sindhi Kadhai also count as ‘heritage’ in your language?”

Our short conversation seemed too less for me to incorporate such wide ideas that these people have. I realized that our country is so rich in culture but a large part of it still lies unexplored. Being from a creative background myself, I could not help but fall in love with the concept of revisiting my roots through their vision. On one hand during my visits to the rural areas I came across issues regarding low demand of their local handmade products. It makes me sad to see how people work so hard just to get the recognition they deserve. But on the other hand I also feel proud to be associated with the team Khayaal and relate to their dreams. Through my writing I just hope to reach out to the greater mass of people and acknowledge their efforts.

With a huge scarcity of opportunities in this sector, this initiative opens the door for all the creative groups and their recognition. It gives me immense pleasure to have a conversation with such talented people. I look forward to their success and hope that they achieve a lot more with their noble cause in mind. 

Written for Milaap by Debarati Roy as a Milaap Fellow

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