Uma Tewari

A childhood spent journeying through India's vast expanse exposed me to our country and its people. Admiring its varied architecture and natural beauty was always time well spent on vacations. It always left me wanting more. So, when an opportunity to work for Dastkar arose I jumped at it, even though it meant giving up an established career in advertising. Travelling for Dastkar was a very different ballgame. Long train journeys to far off interiors, culminating in remote villages after dusty rides in rickety, crowded buses. Rejuvenating, they opened out a whole new way of life- warmth, simplicity, unassuming nature and resilience of the rural folk completely engulfed me. The hardships and the absence of facilities we are so accustomed to seemed to lose its significance. The brilliant skills, be it embroidery, weaving, carpentry, folk art, skillfully practiced over generations left me awe struck and lured me to work with handicrafts.

Today, I am realizing my dream through 'Then & Now', a brand I created to further the marketability of craft by providing a different approach. Using the very same skills to create a line of products for present day utility. It is imperative, I feel, to help the artisans so that they can continue to make a living adeptly, using their inherent skills.

I look back on my journey with craft with a great sense of satisfaction and joy. The opportunity to be tucked away on a rainy day in a remote village in Orissa, by a river, with the temple bells ringing to the sound of beating metal which moulds the bells was an experience like no other. Then again, carefully sipping scarce water on a long bus ride to Barmer at 48 degrees and suddenly coming upon a hamlet where women create the most beautiful suf embroideries was breathtaking.

I have learnt to greatly appreciate and value not only our strong tradition and culture but also the bonds I have made with people and places has enriched my life.