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A blanket of traditions

THE ASIAN AGE. | VANESSA VIEGAS
Published : Feb 7, 2019, 5:31 am IST
Updated : Feb 7, 2019, 12:44 pm IST

The oldest artisan who works at Ornate Quilts is a 92-year old granny from Ozarde village in Wai taluka.

Komal Machindar
 Komal Machindar

A Mumbai resident’s desire to financially uplift the women in her village, has revitalised the traditional practice of weaving godhadis, employing 100 women from six villages in Maharashtra.

Mumbai resident Komal Machindar, who originally hails from Maharashtra’s Satara district, has always wanted to do something  for the women in her village who  couldn’t venture out of their homes to pursue jobs, bound by cultural and familial restrictions. Like most women in her village, Komal’s late grandmother weaved godhadis or quilts at home just as it was traditionally done for generations.  “I still use the godhadi my granny made for me when I was younger. I can’t part with it,” she shares. So, it wasn’t long before she joined the dots and mobilised these women from the villages to revive the traditional practice of godhadi making.  What started with five women from one village in Satara has spread to other six villages — Nagthane, Ozarde, Khandala, Kumthe — girdling 100 women today.

With the help of her designer sister Sheetal Salgaonkar and her cousin brother Nikhil Kenjale, who lives in Koregaon, Satara, Komal laid the foundation of her enterprise, which is now formally called Ornate Quilts. “I started around February 2018 when we were deciding on how to take this forward. So we visited some villages and started with five women from the village who were known to Nikhil,” she says. In this period, Komal quit her job for nine months and started working again as, "then I didn’t have to worry about the capital,” she shares.

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The oldest lady who works at Ornate Quilts is a 92-year old granny from Ozarde village. “Suddenly, her life has changed. Since the younger women in the village weren’t able to do quilting as effectively as her, they all look upto her for training,” informs the entrepreneur.

There were many other catalysts along the way that prompted Komal to scale her business further, starting with a phone call from a friend who wanted to buy her quilts. “That’s when I actually started to see this as a business model. Soon after that, I applied to the Kala Ghoda Festival 2019 and we were immediately selected,” she recalls. The women at Kala Ghoda then referred her to many other people along the way. “We did our first exhibition at Pune’s Bhimthadi Jatra where we received a thunderous response. After that we felt encouraged and wanted to do more. Sharad Pawar’s family, who runs the carnival, also purchased our quilts. I am now getting calls from Gram Panchayats and many other villages that have bachat gats,” says Komal.

Her business is certainly burgeoning and the women have a steady source of income, having made 300 quilts in the last two months alone. While there is no top limit on the number of quilts each lady makes, one double-bed quilt can take about eight or nine days to make, since the women have to make it in their free time.  “When the quilt is ready, I also take photographs of each of the artisans with the quilt and send it to my clients and customers. So they know exactly who is making these quilts for them,” she tells.

Favourable government initiatives and a frequent transport system have also contributed to making this a well-oiled system. “Everything has become very easy. The raw material suppliers connect with me on WhatsApp. Once I’ve met them, they send me the design on WhatsApp and the transactions are done through online payments.”

Komal provides all the raw materials to the women artisans and then collects it from them once it is ready. Another idea she thought about later on was to collect handloom cotton from every state in the country, for which Komal actually pounds pavements to find the right material. “So I don’t use the regular material, only handloom cotton. So far, I’ve connected with suppliers from three states – Jaipur, Gujarat and places in the South. What I want is to revive the handloom experience and bring handloom cotton to everybody’s notice by connecting places through threads,” she elucidates.

Her godhadis are typically three or four layers thick, and the cloth that is used in the middle layer is a handloom cotton that Komal procures from Ichalkaranji village, ahead of Satara, she shares.

“This insulation gives the godhadi a peculiar quality – in the colder seasons you feel warm and during warmer seasons you feel pleasant. Another benefit is that all the patients who have respiratory problems should use it since godhadis do not trap dust like normal blankets do,”she concludes.

Tags: komal machindar