What’s Hot at the Asia Bazaar?

It all started in 1981. Dastkar, the brainchild of Ms. Laila Tyabji and five others, came alive as an organisation and a movement that paved the way for NGOs’ and craftsmen to work on  vivid variety of beautiful products. It also helped mould their lives by procuring appreciation and monetary benefits in return.

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Asia Bazaar is an initiative by Dastkar to celebrate the craftsmanship throughout South Asia from the 11-22 August, 2016. The vendors set up shop from 11:00 am to 7:30 pm at Dastkar Nature Bazaar in Chhatarpur.

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“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” These lines by John Keats insists on looking at handicrafts and handlooms in a different light. We had to visit this bazaar. There was no other option.

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It rained cats and dogs as we made my way through the pathway which has meticulously organised green flags on one side and triangular, multi-hued ones hung everywhere. We breezed through handcrafted bags, blue pottery, traditional jewellery, carpets, handloom dupattas, stoles and cloth pieces, handmade scented soaps and cosmetics, colonial-furniture pieces, spices, plants and plant accessories, paper stencil art and that’s not even all of it. There was so much brilliance assembled in that demarcated piece of land.

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Dastkar is known for it’s pricey handlooms and handicrafts but it’s a wonderful way to appreciate all that work that goes into creating such stunning and detailed pieces of work merely by hands.

Bhavya Arya of Classic Furnitures Depuis 1986 told me a bit about her furniture brand as I stumbled upon her stall embellished with old-school furniture. “We are taking inspiration from traditional and colonial design which is all handcrafted in teak wood. We are trying to preserve the old wood-crafting techniques and using joineries like tongue-in-groove joints and mortise and tenon joint. We are also trying to imbibe a lot of traditional crafts in our work which includes wood inlay, marble inlay, camel bone inlay and cane weaving. The most important aspect of furniture for us is the practicality, functionality and comfort along with design.”

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Because it wasn’t a very busy day (cue: rains), Arya accompanied me throughout my stroll at the bazaar and I would like to take a moment to appreciate beautiful encounters like these.

She introduced me to two organisations working closely to help home-based women workers across different nations.

SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) is a member-based organization of poor self-employed women workers. SEWA is organising women workers in the informal economy in the neighbouring countries of South Asia viz. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. SABAH (SAARC Business Association of Home based Workers), on the other hand, is a non-profit Trade Fecilatation Centre (TFC) which was envisioned as a company shared and owned by home-based women workers.

All the products acquired out of this organization are hand embroidered and hand crafted and 65% of the sale goes directly to the artisans, and the artisans are the shareholders and suppliers of the company. This is the medium where the rural and the urban join their hands to capture the imagination of the world. Sonam Dolma, Head of Design unit, representing the SABAH Bhutan threw some light on how this works. “Our members are spread across Bhutan and it is all about helping home-based workers. They do everything from weaving to tailoring. We provide them with the raw materials, design and the specifications that are required. They don’t have to worry about selling their products and whatever profit that we get out of selling these products goes to those members.”

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They displayed a wide variety of their indigenous designs and colours in clothes, apparels, rugs, cushion covers, stoles and shawls.

If you’re into fashion, you got to check out the Afghani jewellery. It is timeless and looks classy with just about anything that you would want to wear. I haven’t seen this kind of jewellery anywhere else except for this market. Also, Afghani carpets. If you’re into carpets, you can find some of the best ones here.

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As we moved ahead, we came across Ms. Mamoni Chitrakar — a well-travelled woman from rural West Bengal who writes songs and paints them later. She sang a wonderful bengali song on the wedding of two fish who end up getting eaten by a bigger sea animal using her artwork as visuals.

The question remains — should one go or not.

I’d say, go! Not just because it is beautiful and one-of-a-kind experience but also because if we don’t care about preserving and appreciating traditions, culture, and handicrafts, I don’t know who else will!

Photos by Era Tangar

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