Thursday, January 22, 2015

Back in the [Camel] Saddle Again

Jaipur is bustling today. Diwali was last week, and for a moment, the city slowed down after the biggest festival of the year. But just a moment, and now the Pink City is back to its chaotic buying and selling.

I went to see my friend Banty today, and bought breath-taking Rajasthani miniatures: horses with prancing hennaed legs, tigers so real I want to stroke their fur, a Sufi robe that seems to swirl off the paper, sweet cows the colors of dawn, and more. 

Yesterday I bought silver, heavy pieces crafted by villagers and made into powerful neck pieces, bracelets and earrings that leave me breathless. I hope they leave you breathless, too.

Later this week, hand-knotted rugs, made out in the villages and brought by camel cart into Jaipur for final finishing and sale.  Jaipur blue pottery.  Hand-carved block prints, which I plan to have made into table runners and napkins. My heart feels full, just at the thought.

Life got in the way of my plans, as life so often does.  Moving twice in a year, getting laid off and getting rehired, blah blah blah.  Through it all the dream remains, pounding softly (if that is possible), and India calls me back with her sweet insistent voice.

And finally, I am back, doing what I love most in this world, sitting in the small showrooms, offices, homes, factories, of those who make and sell some of the most beautiful goods in India.  Sipping blistering-hot and poisonously sweet chai, inquiring about spouses and children who have grown since last I was here, asking to see the wares in the back, the precious things they don't usually show.

But things have changed, here in Jaipur. There are tall buildings being built out by the airport, newly-renovated when I was here last but now unrecognizable.  The Jaipur women, previously so conservative with the pallus pulled demurely over their heads, hesitant to look me in the eye, often wear Western clothes in public and meet my glance fearlessly.

A side-effect of all this modernity, all this pull to the West, is that some of the traditional arts are being lost.  Only a few places still make Jaipur blue pottery, the rug showrooms are closed, and Banty tells me that his business is greatly decreased.  Indians want what is new--melamine plates, modern art, machine rugs from China.  There are those, of course, who value Indian handicrafts, and the homes of the educated, worldly Indians who I count as friends do have many of the things I love.  But these collectors are becoming the exception in India.

I tell myself that there are good things, a growing middle class, comforts not known before by many here.  And that is true.  But oh! the loss of the crafts that may never be regained.  I snatch up what I can, on the misguided belief that I can single-handedly save these industries.

But perhaps I am being pessimistic.  The pendulum swings in trends, as in life.  Jobs come, jobs go.  Life goes on, beauty is remembered, and beauty remains.

Heavy Antique Silver Rajasthani Tribal Neckpiece, price on request


spiritofdaring said...

I wish our Government takes cognisance of your contribution to propagating our rich cultural heritage overseas.

PInky said...

I do too! Even more, I hope that even more Indians learn to treasure some of these beautiful handcrafts, and they don't end up like zoo animals only in foreign homes....but I believe it will happen!