Over the past few days, Colleen and I have been teaching the women new design ideas and techniques for future Anchal products. Unfortunately on the fourth day of our 5 day workshop in Ajmer I was laid up in the hotel room – not well enough to go to the office. Some of the men from Vatsalya, Anchal's NGO partner, kindly escorted me to the hospital. Too much spicy food for my bland palette had my esophagus on fire. The doctor prescribed me some medicine which we got at the hospital’s pharmacy (think more BAR, selling pharmaceuticals – customer’s pushing there way in and no line). The whole affair – Dr’s visit, taxi ride, meds and all put me out about 750 Rs. That’s about $12.50.
I regretted not being able to see the progress the women’s work. It is exciting for me to be a part of people learning something new, especially when it’s of practical benefit to them. The look that passes through someone’s face when a connection has been made, the moment you know beyond words that they’ve grasped a concept... so satisfying.
A major obstacle I didn’t anticipate is the language barrier. Only 2 english speakers out of a group of 40 women, one being our translator. I’ve learned some hindi words and used those along with technique demonstrations and body language to teach here. The women have taught me as well – different ways to create the same stitches I’ve taught them, and on a bigger scale about perseverance in the face of such obstacles. Some travel 20km, walking dirt roads and travelling by crowded buses to reach the workshop. And all of them walk in – "Namaste" - with a big smile on their face and are happy to be there. In fact, we decided to end a workshop early one day, but the women decided to stay and finish. Their decision to stay led me to imagine the lives they return upon leaving their Anchal home. Knowing back home most people jump at the chance to leave work early, it was just another small sign into the difficult lives they lead.
So many layers to the experience here in Ajmer – too much to write here. But a post wouldn’t be complete without saying that here in Ajmer, against the background of chaos and poverty, Colleen’s dedication to making a positive impact on the lives of the women of Anchal Project really shines… a true inspiration.
Tricia is a freelance fashion designer and yoga teacher living and working in Philadelphia. She's been excited to collaborate with Anchal Project on a recent collection for Urban Outfitters, made out of Anchal quilts, and looks forward to continuing to contribute to Anchal's cause through collaborative design work and teaching experiences.