Western India: A sneak peek…

Alison Marsh headed off to Asia to explore our Western India tour. We caught up with her to find out how she got on:

Few are strangers to the pearly white majesty of the Taj Mahal, just one of the amazing features you can discover during our Western India Tour. Whilst one of India’s most impressive historical gems awaits in Western India, even greater national treasures can be discovered here as we explore some of the country’s best crafts, as well as the people behind these exquisite creations.

Having heard of the amazing experiences up for grabs and with the exotic sights of India on her travel bucket list, Alison headed off on our Indian adventure to soak up the sights for herself. Here’s what she thought of our tour:

The best bits…
India has always held a fascination for me so I was delighted when I had the opportunity to accompany the Western India tour. It was amazing! We visited Traidcraft producers including Creative Handicrafts, Aravali block printers and Tara stone works was truly inspirational, and possibly the most heart-warming highlight of the tour for me was St Mary’s. We also visited other projects, which included Shrujan and Qasab, where exquisite hand embroidery and textiles are produced using traditional techniques. I was totally captivated by the skill and commitment of the women in the villages, who produce the finest embroidery I have ever seen.

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Other highlights…
We also visited Agrocel to learn about their organic farming methods and the Vivekananda Research & Training Institute where we were treated to a delightful cultural show by the school children. Let’s not forget about the tourist visits which included spectacular temples, historic buildings, the amazing Amber Fort at Jaipur (my personal favourite), the Red Fort at Agra and of course the Taj Mahal, which needs no introduction!

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Food for thought…
Everyone loves food and no-one more than me! The choice in India was amazing and simply delicious, especially the lunchtime buffets that were prepared for us by the producers. The options were mainly vegetarian, particularly in the more rural areas we visited, with meat and fish more widely available in the bigger cities. Full of spices, of course, but there was always a choice from mild to really spicy, and, if you wanted a break, then pasta, noodles and pizza were usually available too.

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My top tips
Hey I could wax lyrical all day, but you have to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it. Having sampled the delights of this extraordinary country I have two pieces of wisdom that I think could help make your experiences that little bit better:

  1. Travel with an open mind
  2. Allow yourself to be immersed in the sights, sounds and chaos that makes India truly unique.

I’m sold and I’m sure you will be too.

Whilst away Alison managed to lend her hand to some videography and for a real flavour of this tour, check out our first ever Meet the People video below:

Alison took on our Crafts and Cotton of Western India tour. For more information about this tour click here, call us in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com.

Producer Highlight: St Mary’s Embroidery and Tailoring

Where: India
Trip: Crafts and Cotton of Western India

How did the project start?
This embroidery project was set up up in 1970 in the slum area of Gomtipur, Ahmedabad. It grew from work of the Spanish Dominican sisters who arrived in Ahmedabad in 1954. The sisters of St Mary’s are therefore both Indian and Spanish.

How does it work?
Production began, leading to the sewing and embroidery centre, where women use traditional skills to make beautiful handicrafts. Today there are 400 women embroidering in their own homes and 50 working at St Mary’s.

How does this benefit the community?
St Mary’s employs disadvantaged local women and provides income and social support in an area where opportunities are scarce and women can be disempowered. Work also gives the women a sense of identity and helps the break -down of cultural rivalries.

St Mary’s also has an associated clinic, maternity unit and nursing home – with a mother and child care programme. In addition it has a social programme based in the surrounding area. Based in a mixed Hindu, Muslim and Christian area has provided a tough history in the past with riots forcing many to leave their homes. St Mary’s was a place of refuge during troubles and has worked with other agencies on re-housing and rehabilitation for the future.

An example of their amazing work…
Traidcraft contributes to approximately 10% of the company’s sales and St Mary’s crafts can be found on their website. Click here to see an example of their products which you can purchase.

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Feeling inspired? If you’d like to meet the inspiring women behind this project join us on our Western India tour where you get the chance to visit St Mary’s and watch the creation of these incredible crafts. For more information click here.

Postcards from Western India

Penny and Dan joined a Meet the People Tour to Western India in February 2014, calling in at Mumbai, Kutch, Jaipur, and Delhi to name just a few! 

Here’s their five most memorable moments of the trip:

1. Lunch with a cotton farmer and his extended family on their farm in rural Kutch. We were greeted with music and flowers and treated as honoured guests, which made us feel humble.

Visiting St Mary's producers2. The opportunity and privilege to be welcomed by women embroiderers into their own homes in the poorer districts of Ahmedabad and Bhuj. It was a unique chance to compare our lives with theirs, to find out what is different in the way they live, and what is the same.

3. The holiday included not only the world famous tourist sights of the Taj Mahal and Jaipur’s Amber Fort, but also guided tours well off the well-worn tourist trail, along the back streets and slums of Mumbai, Agra and Ahmedabad. An endless supply of temples and monuments, cities and villages.

Group at Taj Mahal

4. Travelling by train, auto-rickshaw, and elephant through the most spectacular and diverse country in the world. Every second was spent gazing out of the window at something new and amazing (note, the elephant did not have windows!)

Painted elephant at amber fort nr Jaidpur

5. The many new friends we were reluctant to leave behind, and the new friends we brought back with us.

On their return, Dan and Penny created this short piece with video and images from their trip. We hope you will enjoy watching it as much as we did!

Find more details about our tour of Western India click here. Alternately contact Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or email info@skedaddle.com for an update on availability and more information.