Maybe it is the Diwali excitement or the fact that this is my 5th trip to India, but I feel a new sense of calmness and patience during my time here. It is one of the things I value most about my experiences in India; I am always learning and improving. This trip in particular, I have a new level of acceptance for things I cannot control and now frame roadblocks like a creative challenge. There is no reason to get worked up about running out of grey thread, an artisan stitching a crooked line, or it taking 2 hours to make a photocopy. Don’t get me wrong, it is still frustrating as hell, but I now can move beyond that moment and look to the larger mission at hand – empowering women who have never been given a opportunity to shine.
My interactions & relationships with the artisans have reached a new point. More than ever there is a mutual bond and increased level of trust that is demonstrated. We are learning more about each other and the artisans now know that Anchal is not going anywhere. This feeling may not be visible to an outsider and is difficult to describe, but I can feel it without even needing to communicate it verbally with the artisans. It is a deep connection built on trust and confidence. It resonates in my heart. I think it is the most evident when I am sitting with the women while stitching. There is a new camaraderie full of smiling, joking, and laughing. One moment in particular occurred when I was working with Laxmi. Previously in February, she was very reserved and removed from engaging with me and even the group. I now observed a more engaged and confident Laxmi. Yesterday, I was giving her instructions on the next steps in her piece and using a washable pen to mark lines on the fabric. I then was pulled to help another artisan for a few minutes and forgot about the “magic” pen. Let me preface this by sharing that all pens have been banned from be used on or near the quilts. There has been more than one occasion where lines are drawn and it is not removed during the washing process, thereby ruining all of their hard work with a few marks. Now enter the special “magic” pen that is washable, they were excited to have this guiding instrument available to them again.
Once I shifted my focus back to Laxmi, I saw that she had drawn every single stitch line. While the attention to detail is admirable, we cannot depend upon a pen when teaching precision. After seeing this I made a surprised exclamation at which point she smiled. I snatched the pen from her hand and we burst into laughter. “No pen, sorry sorry.”
Though small, these interactions tell me that this more confident & animated Laxmi can be attributed to the empowerment found within the Anoothi/Anchal project & community. Plus, Laxmi is not the only one – Bhagwati, Basanti, Santo, Sunita, Neetu, Madina, and many many more are displaying a new self-confidence and conviction. I love being able to share in this celebration of growth and friendship.