Markets are loud, stinking and striking reflections of a city. There is no better place to appreciate the spirit of a neighbourhood or the state of mind of its people.

The winding streets of the old market in Bhuj are true reflections of its evolving nature. The Shroff market in the old town, housed in an old british garrison, dates back to 1883. People inside buy and sell fruits, vegetables and spices. The building, parts of which were rebuilt after the earthquake in 2001, is quite charming and stands at the corner of two streets that are bustling with traders and tourists.

I have a long passion for markets. I could spend hours in one, walking, observing its life, its colours, the familiarity of its faces and the conversations it churns out. It is here that daily stories are born and passed on.

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Celebrating print makers and print making traditions of Kachchh, we invited children to create their own little masterpieces exploring print making techniques like Mono-printing, Dry Point Intaglio and Collography.
Why am I not surprised at the result! These are some of the prints made by these little creative geniuses!

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Imagine a classroom where you learn math with an artisan, discussing his profits and productions, a science class at a dyeing workshop to make your own clothes, and a Hindi Class where you learn to interview people from diverse backgrounds about their life and work! Imagine a classroom where your regular subjects come to life and learning is by making, observing and interacting with everyday life and surroundings! That is exactly what we did for the students of Sinchan school, who gladly left their textbooks behind and spent a whole week at Khamir. We took textbook lessons and made them relevant to Kachchh, to craft and to its people.
Sinchan is an alternative school in Bhuj, whose philosophy is learning by ‘the-play-way’ method. For the past 7 years they have been experimenting new ways to teach and learn. Our philosophies matched and Khamir turned into a school for a week! The collography classes were a part of the Khamir School Curriculum 🙂

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We even made it to the local newspaper! Sorry it is in Gujarati!
kutchi

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Little Khari had been waiting so long for this day. Every time she thought about it, her heart skipped a beat! Trying hard to contain her excitement, Little Khari skipped over to her mother, “Mother, tell me the story! Tell me again!”
It was a beautiful sunrise and her mother was preparing for their departure along with the others of the flock. She had heard this story over and over again but would never get tired of it. It was her favorite. After all, she had been named after a river from this land.
“It is beautiful my dear, the most unique place I have ever been to. You will see for yourself soon”. said her mother.
“Prepare for a grand adventure little one” cried a neighbor, “One that you will not forget!”

Soon it was time to take off, Little Khari and her mother took the wind in their wings. It was chilly but they were full of hope for the warm days they were going to have ahead.

They flew for several days, over white mountains and blue seas, over brown fields and green canopies. They crossed great mountains, they struggled through the big cities of big countries. She kept her eyes wide open throughout the journey, but was always ahead of her pack, “Let’s go! Let’s go!”, “Hurry up everybody!” she would say.
For there was only one thing on her mind.
She was eager to arrive. To arrive in Kachchh.

And so it happened. On the 11th Monday since their departure, the landscape began to give away hints of their destination.
“It is really white!” thought Little Khari, looking down at the vast white land below. Her mother had been right, but this was more than she had imagined! Within a few kilometers, the landscape had changed so quickly. No more buildings, no more big cities, no more tiny trees and people. This was all just white.

Do you know where Khari has arrived?? Storytelling for little children. Co-authored by Sujatha Padmanabhan and Shruthi Ramakrishna; and illustrated by the talented Kalyani Ganapathy, Little Khari’s little story book is coming soon on madeinkachchh.

Even after all these years, Musabhai remembers precisely the printed motif that he sold to a businessman in Ahmedabad when he was just a teenager traveling out of Kachchh for the first time. He showed me the fabric sample and said, “I had made so many blocks myself and stored them all in my work shed in Dhamadka. Then the earthquake came, and the ground shook and the blocks were completely smashed! Not one survived. So I moved to Ajrakhpur and remade them all again!”

Musabhai today is a successful businessman. With his two sons helping him in printing and dyeing, theirs is one of the most visited shop in Ajrakhpur. What we went to document in film was his ‘businessman skills’ and what we received in return was a whole lot more.

“Is she understanding everything I am saying?” he asks pointing towards Sarah who is filming us.
“No Musabhai, I don’t think so. After going home, we both will sit together and translate every word that you said and then she will understand.”

“But my words are ok?”
“Your words are perfect!”

Later on, inside a workshop a few meters ahead, Khalid makes a beautiful hand printed and painted masterpiece, all the while making jokes about why we came to live in Kachchh and work at Khamir and what is our salary! Khalid is one of a kind artist…and person. Truly. Try talking to him and you will see how!
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This short glimpse into the lives of Khatris of Ajrakhpur could well have been made into 5 films if not for Sarah’s super editing skills. So many laughs, discussions, debates, bad sound recordings and mutton meals later, we ended up with this. Those were indeed some special moments and I am glad Sarah could put it all together so nicely, in this film “A New Beginning In Ajrakhpur”.

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Bringing together the Block printers and dyers of Kachchh and Khamir, our exhibition ‘Kachchh Ji Chhaap’ is now open!

The exhibition is an attempt to tell the story of prints and print making as it unfolded from the time it was practiced on the banks of the Indus to its many facets today. Kachchh Ji Chhaap is an intricate tale of the craftsmen, bringing together narratives of their lives, their milestones and their challenges.

The Exhibition will be held at the Khamir Campus from 7th December 2013 to 28th February 2014.

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