we traveled to india in april with a laundry list of goals, with the general idea being:
take incredible photos; find incredible new fabrics; develop incredible block prints.
also, don't melt in the 114 degree heat.
easy to say, really hard to do.
stepwell outside of jaipur; you can almost see the heat
(my sidenote goal: see the dabbawallas at the train station in mumbai delivering 250,000 lunch tiffins all over the city
with perfect precision without any tech. if you don't know about this mind baffling system, read this
they do this almost every day of the year EXCEPT the day we were there in mumbai. i was in tears.)
but we did see the also incredible dhobi ghat in mumbai with a similar tech-free system of hand delivering perfect,
spotless laundry all over the city using a complex numbering system.
despite my agenda of meetings, research and flights zigzagging across india (5 destinations in 14 days, WHAT),
checking off this impossible list really depended on impromptu creativity and luck.
in our frenzied state, driving to bagru felt like an unwinding. it forced us to slow down a bit.
i think it does this to anyone who goes there.
and isn't that the whole point of it all? we need a reminder like this sometimes.
bagru is about 30 minutes outside of jaipur and has been a capital of block printing for about 350 years. or much longer-- i've heard various reports. regardless, a long time. the minerals in the water are special to this area, and are needed during the printing process-- hence one reason blockprinting thrives here. the work in bagru is known to be less affected by industry which has helped it maintain heritage quality.
printing incorporates the land and nature surrounding in other parts of the process: harda for the fabric from a native plant, and mustard used as a natural dye, to name two. so in essence, the land, the people & the art all work together naturally to form something truly special.
the entire community is involved in printing in some way.
walking around the printer's quarter we find carvers teaching their sons the craft, dye houses using the same
cauldron over flames that has been used for generations.
everyone has role in the process. it takes a village.
ildeesh, one of the master printers with unending patience with us as we worked,
got a kick out of the caftan when we arrived the first morning. he pointed to a swatch hanging on the wall of the fabric,
then pointed to himself, then to erin. yep, the full cycle, all right there.
we stayed at savista, an eco resort on the other side of the freeway from bagru.
we were the only guests there-- the only ones crazy enough to be there in the heat-- so our lovely time
with the owners felt like we had joined them at their home for a few days.
(it is their family's old home, so indeed, this is exactly what it was.)
we in texas have a lesson to learn from indians:
even in heat, life continues outdoors. fans, shade, and just a few rooms are air conditioned for part of the day.
and you know what? it works.
i find this is a much better alternative to our summer hibernation in frigid interiors.
if savista isn't a lesson in slow travel, i don't know what is.
it is life in nature: morning chai by the pool, wandering hikes, and roof-sitting magic. stop and play with the giant toad on the path to breakfast.
read a book in a hammock.
not that we had time to do much of it this trip, but another lesson for us:
not so rushed next time.
> > >
part 2: the block printing process