We almost didn't write this post because we didn't know how to put our experience into words. It was an unparalleled, pinch-yourself-to-make-sure-this-is-real, out of body moment that we will try our best to share.
We were really looking forward to the home visits & it was clear that the artisans were too. It is a chance for us to see them in their natural environment, meet their families and spend time together outside of work. After the design workshops the artisans would approach us individually & say, "Are you coming over today?", and "Please make sure you stop by my house today." Colleen & I knew we were in trouble right away, as there was no way we could visit all 100+ women's homes. Throughout the week they would put more pressure on us: "What is your favorite type of biscuit?", "I make the best chai", "I really want you to meet my daughters".
How would we pick who to visit? A lot of the women live in the same neighborhood & so it made the most sense for us to walk home with them after work and quickly stop by their individual homes. The only problem is that there was no such thing as a quick stop. At each home we were greeted by the extended family who warmly welcomed us with handshakes and hugs. The children were freshly showered, dressed in their nicest outfits and had carefully combed hair. They lined up to politely introduce themselves one -by- one.
We were given tours of new homes, each with crisply swept floors, perfectly folded blankets and neatly stacked dishes. The artisans proudly pointed out new additions & recent purchases such as a refrigerator or wheat processor. At each home we were given water, tea, biscuits & were invited to stay for dinner. We watched as Kamla reached into the depths of her cabinets to open a fresh bag of cookies that she had been saving for a special occasion & as Renu proudly demonstrated how her new water filter worked. We looked through photo albums, were shown prized family heirlooms & even tried on wedding saris.
We would regrettably leave each home only to be followed by the whole family to the next home. By the end of the visits, we were walking through the street with a mob of 30+ women and their families. Other people would peer out of their homes to see the commotion and soon the whole village, not just the artisans & their families, was following us & inviting us in. People were waving from rooftops and grabbing our hands to lead us into their home next. Colleen and I looked at each other in disbelief.
It was hard to tell who was more proud - the artisans to show us their accomplishments, or us to witness the incredible accomplishments that the artisans have made. But it was clear, as we marched together through the streets, that we had all done something right. Suddenly every all-nighter, 5am morning, and red-eye flight spent planning pop-up shops, writing pitches and creating new designs was worth it because it got us here - misty-eyed and hugging Shama in front of her new home.