The name Gandhi is ubiquitous in history, and is often associated with non-violence, justice, and India's freedom movement. While those principles were ingrained in our systems early on, it was only on my last trip to India that I developed a bond of sorts with the man and his less popular philosophy on sustainable and self-reliant economies. I am talking about his 'Swadeshi' movement, where he urged all Indians to make their own items using natural and local resources, including spinning natural cotton, silk or wool fibers by hand to make Khadi. The idea was to end dependency on foreign goods brought in by the British at that time.
Somehow this movement from 1918 helped me with healing after my father's demise recently, in a slightly roundabout way.
I was feeling a bit lost with the rituals held in the memory of my father. I was also trying to make sense of the different ways people around me were reacting to grief. Feeling confused by all this, I took to the only thing I knew: creating something. So I went to a fabric trade fair that was happening close to home (coincidence?) I came upon a khadi booth from Northern India, and instantly fell in love with the way it felt. I had no clue what I was going to make, but the new colors and patterns in khadi were amazing (in the past khadi was restricted to various shades of beige and white). Now, I had seen khadi before, and even owned a tunic or two, but this time it just felt different in an inexplicable way. Also, because it is hand spun and hand woven only from natural fibers, it was in line with the Shivam philosophy of using only eco-friendly fibers :)
The next day I decided to pay a visit to the Khadi Gramodaya, the only authorized government khadi store in Mumbai. Here, the fabrics come from khadi makers in villages across the country, who are regulated by the central government. I spent half a day in that store! I even picked up some handmade paper... again, no clue what I will make with it, but it will come to me someday!
I picked up as much fabric as I could carry on the flight to Bangalore, the location of my production team. I was busy outlining ideas and combinations for my products, and headed straight to the workshop from the airport. After a long brainstorming session (or two) and some prototypes later, we were ready to make the first batch of new khadi products. Bags, clutches, pouches, even some screen printed napkins! I was very pleased with the results... something I do not feel easily.
The best part: all the running around between the local khadi centers, the workshop and my house, would get me to collapse in bed by 9 pm! I would think of my father in the silent moments in between but other than that I tried to just cram my day. I know my father would have wanted me to pick myself up and work. Even though he would ponder over a troublesome situation longer than is required sometimes, he would have approved of my dogged pursuit to create something new and beautiful from the pain.
What added to this was knowing that by investing my capital in my country's natural resources I was helping out entire villages that are involved in spinning and weaving, a trade that has diminished over the last century. Buying the fabric may just another step in my goals for a sustainable and eco-friendly business, but I sincerely owe it to Gandhi for sowing those seeds nearly a 100 years ago, and which eventually helped my soul get just a little bit better.
(p.s. besides Khadi, I have more in common with Gandhi- We were both born in Porbandar, in the state of Gujarat in Western India :))