As we wrap up the day’s work over a cup of chai and settle into the next leg of tasks, Rama ruminates over the year that has been. She refers to 2020 as her great teacher - this lockdown and the subsequent unlock have had an impact on her life, and the many lives she touches. The year and its teachings are unique in their own way, pervading through every single field of life, and making students of everyone. While the lockdown was an impediment to the workings of most people, there were some like Rama who took it upon themselves to make the best of this time given to us not just for herself, but the community that she works with.
In this time, she worked closely with women who represented the spirit of Umbara - a drive to do good, to work with others, and most importantly, to affect change. Maximizing productivity at a time of minimal work was Rama’s challenge, and this is the story of how she won.
Umbara worked with women to overcome the challenge of financial stability in the lockdown. There is a strong foundation of retaining the integrity of the process of making clothes here, which would not be compromised even in adverse conditions that presented themselves. At the same time, the ethos of sustainable and zero-waste production is a running thread across all Umbara projects, and shines through in the Unlock series too.
When the lockdown set in, the loss of hope, the onset of fear and confusion plagued Team Umbara. There was palpable uncertainty, echoed across the country by almost everyone from all walks of life. The women of Umbara, however, took it upon themselves to make sure that livelihoods are kept going, with timely intervention and innovation spearheaded by Rama. Bhavani helped her with a visual harvest in the early days of the lockdown - about what Umbara can be and will be, all birthed from a conversation that the two women had. Bhavani took in all the energies and stories of Umbara, and came up with a telling visual on the directions and qualities that could be brought forth.
Unlock With Umbara
For the Unlock Series, Rama held “WhatsApp Classrooms” with women, to teach them how to make products used locally sourced waste fabric available to them easily. The lockdown hit us all on 24th March, and Rama’s ideating process started on the same day! By 8th April, her WhatsApp classrooms were set up. The women that she works with started familiarising themselves with this mode of communication, and gearing up for a phase of learning with a twist.
“We spent almost 3 weeks simply holding hands and listening to stories.” says Rama. Tuning in to the frequency of the women that she was working with was important since it was crucial for her to understand how she can help, and where she needed to plug in her expertise and her teachings. In one particular class, she explained the concept of aligning your head, hand, and heart - it is the only way to create something of meaning, of value not just to you, but to everyone it touches. This concept stuck with Sangeetha, a woman in Rama’s online classes and in the Umbara team at large - she remembers this teaching, with the knowledge that it will take her work to the next level if she follows it and believes in it.
Rama worked with these women on a group called ‘Social Distancing’ - an apt title for something happening in the right place, at the right time. Through her WhatsApp classrooms, these women worked exclusively from their homes, and created varied products as a result of their own curiosity and interest as well. The women realized their own potential in times of strife. With limited materials, and guidance from Rama online, they were able to create a stunning array of products, ranging from aprons to cat mats, handmade bags to kimonos, and so much more!
When you support the Unlock Series with Umbara, you’re not just buying upcycled goods, or sustainable fashion. You’re investing in a team of women that have come up against all odds and skilled themselves to make bespoke products for you, while keeping sustainability in mind. Umbara isn’t an exotic boutique, nor is it an NGO - it is simply a place that can synergize the capabilities of its women along with the needs of all its customers.
Shop for a range of diverse products and show your support for our women here.
These handmade products are sustainable, zero-waste, and made with love by women groups that have been trained and assisted by Rama Narayanan. Take your pick of the choicest products including fabulous custom-made kimonos, upcycled bags for gifting, upcycled aprons, eco-friendly cat mats, trendy sling bags, and so much more! Our team of women has also crafted lovely handmade hanging birds made from recycled scraps of fabric, dazzling sustainable footwear, and bright, colourful soft toys, pouches, and stationery holders. Our personal favourite - reusable cloth pads that come in a variety of colours, and no one is like the other.
You have the chance to add brightness and sustainability to your wardrobe and home while supporting the effort of women in standing on their own two feet. Try investing in the lives and livelihoods of women who truly know what it means to build and birth things from nothing - use your power, your shakti to empower the women of Umbara.