Credits for all pictures go to Indian Frames
Lata Kachhawaha hails from Jodhpur and has distinguished her life by becoming a role model by helping over 15000 women become financially self-sufficient and independent. She has inspired a global trade starting from Barmer. Read on to be inspired.
Lata Kachhawaha arrived in Barmer sometime in 1985. Soon after, she started working with Sure NGO to empower women around here. The ideal choice was the Meghwal community’s women, whose Kashidari is elegant and intricate with a worldwide market today. Thanks to Lata Kachhawaha, many can earn a living through their traditional form of embroidery, which was earlier a domestic enterprise for home beautification.
The Meghwal community has a tumultuous past with the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 and 1971 uprooting them and strewing them across parts of Rajasthan and other Central Indian states. One such group chose Chohtan in Barmer as its home. As with all migrants, life was hard through this transition, too, for women subdued by society’s unreasonable constructs.
The situation at Barmer was far worse as even the locals were reeling with droughts and minuscule agricultural possibilities. Water shortage marred any attempt at improving the quality of life here for locals and migrants alike. Enter SURE, Society to Uplift Rural Economy and along with it Lata Kachhawaha, a social worker who would revolutionise the plight of women in particular and the entire community at large.
Lata Kacchawaha recounts her early life in Jodhpur, where her penchant for social work was well known and fortunately well received by her family. At age 22, when she lost her mother, her brother brought her to Barmer to be guided by and work with Shree Magraj Jain, whose ideologies inspired Lata Kacchawaha, and she has never looked back since.
A group from the Meghwal community displaced and reeling came and settled down at Barmer after the war. With no other source of income, the community turned towards its women for sustenance. Meghwal women, as already noted, are pioneers and adept at Kashidari or Kashidakari, a unique hand-embroidery technique used to embellish everything from bags, cushions, bed covers, handkerchiefs, shawls and more. Thus the community pivoted this personal and home-use only art form to a commercial venture. Manvar, our luxury resort in Jodhpur, is a benefactor and a beneficiary of this art form with the interiors at our luxury camps in Rajasthan made exceedingly beautiful by the Meghwal Kashidari.
But all was not good in the beginning. The merchants who acted as middlemen were far from providing the helpless and straightforward Meghwal people with the due they truly deserved, keeping the lion’s share of the sale to themselves. All this forced families apart, with the men moving across the country searching for jobs. The women stated behind, working hard on their traditional art of Kashidari and the usual household responsibilities, leaving them with hardly anything at the end of it all. So much so that the Meghwal women started giving up on their art without seeing the due returns.
Lata Kacchawaha would not dream of letting a beautiful art form such as this die. The designs, detailed and intricate, were the intangible heritage unless stitched, passed down through the generations. Lata Kacchawaha knew she needed to do something and soon. She recruited outside help, nothing short of the best, NID (National Institute of Design), NIFT (National Insitute of Fashion Technology) and Dastkar. The result - a series of workshops that helped create over 250 designs in tune with contemporary tastes.
Lata Kacchawaha also started training them in the science and art of business and management, helping them assess costs of raw material, shipping, storage, ROI, breakeven, balance sheets, profit and loss on the actuarial side and about entrepreneurship, management and quality too.
Tying up with the Ministry of Textiles, SURE ensured that Meghwal Kashidari reached its full potential and exposure through exhibitions in India and abroad, including Germany, Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka. Corporate tie-ups with Fab India, Ikea, Rangsutra, who source directly from the Barmer Meghwals. Manvar, the quintessential luxury resort in Jodhpur, is replete with creations from these artistic women.
Success comes with its own set of challenges. The more successful and popular the Kashidari became, the more Meghwal women were solicited to visit fairs, exhibitions, lectures, etc. With growing economic emancipation and strength, the Meghwal women could finally step out of the shadows of their men. But this met with a lot of initial resistance and inhibitions.
Another issue faced by the community was water scarcity and demanded excessive time for these women to ensure water availability for daily life. SURE created storage solutions that made water available for a week to reduce their effort for a mundane yet essential task.
Although the war that displaced them is long over, the struggle is ongoing. Many such talented communities with untapped potential exists across Rajasthan. Manvar, the quintessential luxury resort in Jodhpur, is a voluntary sentinel of the heritage of Rajasthan, both tangible and intangible, showcasing and celebrating the indigenous art and crafts.