Dusty Roads of Gujarat, India
Posted on 31 October 2016
Renée Lamb, founder of Soulié, is walking down memory lane to the place that would become the birthplace of some of the Soulié products: Gujarat.
Stepping off the train in Ahmedabad, after months in the lush green jungles of Kerala and Goa was jarring to say the least. It was still hot, but now the air was dry and full of dust. There wasn’t a bit of green to be seen for miles and the smell of diesel fuel mixed with sweat was overwhelming. I had a moment of panic, remembering back to the months I had lived in Delhi almost 10 years before. Those were challenging months and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to jump back into that.
I took a deep breath and reminded myself that we were only passing through. Almost immediately we would be on another train heading further out into the desert. Still no break from the dust, but maybe at least an escape from the noise and pollution.
As we drew closer to the border with Pakistan, I watched the landscape outside my window. The land seemed to sing with stories of resilience and history. This land had been torn apart during the partition in 1947. Whole communities that had existed in harmony for centuries were suddenly broken apart and moved across borders based on their religious practices. It’s no wonder the people here clung to their traditions and artwork so strongly. It was their link to their past and their way to ensure that their story was heard by future generations.
We had traveled to Gujarat specifically to find artisans still creating craft in the traditional way. We had no specific plan, just to keep our eyes open and ask a lot of questions. A person wearing a beautiful scarf usually led to a small village with a master weaver or master dyer. A shop with hand crafted brass bells led to a few dirt huts where men had been hand-forging bells for generations.
To meet these men and women was intoxicating. The hope and integrity that they put into their craft was immediately obvious and spilled over into their workshops and faces as immense pride. I had never before met people so completely proud of how they spent their days and what they made with their hands. It was enough to make any person pause, gaze down at their own palms and wonder, “if I had the patience, what could I do with these two hands?”
The longer I spent in this desert land, the more enchanted I was by the people living there. Artisan, farmer, wife or student, the title didn’t matter. There was a resilience and steadfastness amongst all of them that was enviable. It made me think back to my own life, all of those things I thought I could never live without but which now felt so insignificant and far away.
As we left Gujarat, I realised that my most precious souvenirs were not the beautiful crafts that we had collected in our backpacks, but instead a reminder that hope, pride and an intention of beauty and purpose in life is more valuable than any physical possession. For that I will always be grateful to this beautiful, dusty stretch of sand and all those people that call it home.
© All photos via Renee Lamb