Umbara’s Unlock stories have shown you the journey that Rama and the Umbara women went on, together. It has been a journey of shared stories, hopes, pains, obstacles, triumph, creation, and empowerment. The creation of an entire line of products from scraps of cloth, that too in such unprecedented times, was in no way an easy job. What drove the women was not just a wish to do something with their time, but also a need to establish their own centres of power within themselves. Rama understood the different aspects of this process and mindspace.
At Umbara, we depend on our women. Their resilience, strength, and grace never fail to leave us awestruck. To them, sewing and creating these products wasn’t just a way to support themselves and their family - it was a process that turned around their lives in making them aware of their own capabilities and achievements. In many ways, it’s like cooking, where the eye sees and the hand does. It’s just that sewing engages that mind more, logically and rationally. And small learning in sewing can result in a huge change in someone’s personal life. So when the time came to kick off the production for our Unlock series, it was a simple first step.
To start off the process, all she asked the women to do was to make drawcords or ‘naadas’ from the scraps of cloth collected. That’s it. Just stitching pieces of cloth together till they form a line. Nothing more.
The Chindi Connect
Imagine there’s a heap of these chindis in front of you. Nothing special, nothing valuable, not even personal. These are discarded parts of someone else’s life - they were not picked out by you, you did not receive them, you did not even expect them to still exist, and yet they do. And among this heap is a strange scrap that is calling to you. For no rhyme or reason, you feel drawn to it. Next, you play with it, cut it up, knot it, or just simply hold it - for a moment, it’s just you and that little scrap of cloth. Two points in existence, joined by a strange, simple connection.
This connection, however mysterious or inarticulable it may be, is the focus of Umbara’s work or the fountainhead of this long-standing affair with fabrics. Our women too, have walked with us in this affair, learning, sharing, and creating with us.
Solace in Simple Lines
Our minds are attuned to linearity - any sort of focus on simple, linear, mechanical work like stitching drawcords will bring stability within, and let us disengage from the chaos without. At a time where insecurities about health and finances are ravaging minds across the world, this seemingly small act of putting drawcords together had big impacts for the women. Rama could have planned any activity for the women to start off with. She chose this task specifically to free their minds. “A mind with chaos, with fear, cannot engage with others and with itself creatively”, she says. The women could have gone online and searched for products to make on their own. But the key here was to recognize what was missing - it was not a lack of ideas, but a lack of confidence.
The simple task of making nothing but lines of fabric out of scraps gave the women a feeling of being in sync with not just themselves and their inner balance, but also the larger project - of creation, of purpose. There was something in the touch of a scrap of cloth that helped our women steer themselves.
Umbara’s Unlock stories have shown you the journey that Rama and the Umbara women went on, together. It has been a journey of shared stories, hopes, pains, obstacles, triumph, creation, and empowerment. The creation of an entire line of products from scraps of cloth, that too in such unprecedented times, was in no way an easy job. What drove the women was not just a wish to do something with their time, but also a need to establish their own centres of power within themselves. Rama understood the different aspects of this process and mindspace. Think of the heights that women could achieve, if only more people acknowledged the autonomy of their minds, their hearts.
For now, we sign off with this thought: small scraps of people’s lives, or even our own lives are discarded so easily - maybe they were parts of ourselves or of others that we did not need, or that we should not have held on to. When you sit and think of these small aspects as heaps of colourful cloth, maybe you find a connection, or perhaps a wish to reclaim these scraps, build something new, create something unique out of them - the way the Umbara women did.