Tag Archives: Rajasthan

Oasis of Hope

World Water Day special for The Free Press Journal published on March 20, 2022.

The Ecofeminist Warrior

The ethos of Padma Shri recipient Shyam Sunder Paliwal’s life revolves around water, daughter and trees. A resident of Rajsamund district in Rajasthan, Paliwal is the architect of the Piplantri Model that hinges on water conservation, environment protection and saving the girl child.

“It was not too long ago that the district was known as a hub of marble mining. When I took over as Sarpanch of Piplantari, I found that the water here was severely contaminated. The poor sex ratio was another worry. The winds of change began to blow when we started an initiative to plant 111 saplings to celebrate the birth of a girl child across the villages, nurture and help the tree thrive. Slowly, the rural communities had realised that the trees that would grow from these humble efforts would help the environment in more than one way. Simultaneously, we started water conservation efforts like building small check dams,” says Paliwal, founder of Kiran Nidhi Sansthan, a grassroots organisation committed to rural development. 

Padma Shri Shyam Sunder Paliwal

His initiative brought about a visible social change and helped water and environmental conservation in Piplantari. More than three lakh trees have been planted here in the last ten years, and the water level has increased to 50 feet from 500 feet. “It is heartening to see my penance bear fruits. It has been a long and arduous journey spread over the last two decades. We never dithered but stayed put, instilled confidence in the people and won their trust to do this wonder here. It was possible because the community came forward and pitched its support to these initiatives for tree plantation, water conservation and saving the girl child,” he says.

But the work is far from over. The much-celebrated water warrior’s Piplantari Model is the perfect medium to convey the message to others, and many Panchayats and village heads are following in his footsteps.    

He will continue his work on these three fronts all around the desert state and elsewhere in the country because it is an ongoing process. “There can never be enough of these measures to save the environment from climate change. We need to do more, all the more,” he emphasises.


More here: https://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/world-water-day-spotlighting-a-few-warriors-who-are-creating-abundance-in-scarcity

The Green Giant of Nagaur

Nagaur farmer Himmata Ram Bhambhu a.k.a. ‘Registan ke Ratna Ram’ was felicitated with Padma Shri for his enviable contribution to the environment. He adores and reveres trees and has so far planted five and a half lakh saplings in desert areas of Rajasthan, using ingenious ways to water and see them grow into green giants.      

Bhambhu fondly recalls how his grandmother once made him plant a Peepal sapling and sowed a noble thought in his impressionable mind that eventually shaped his life. “She made me realise that humans could live at the most for 100, but trees live for hundreds of years. The thought stayed with me. Over the past five decades, I have been on a sapling planting spree in Rajasthan, and almost all of them have grown into green giants dotting Nagaur and other places in the desert state. They are my real wealth,” he says. 

Hon’ble President of India Ramnath Kovind felicitated Nagaur farmer Himmata Ram Bhambhu with Padma Shri for Social Work (Environment) in 2020.

The district is home to India’s largest salt lake, Sambhar Lake and so Bhambhu had an onerous task at hand – overcome the problem of saltwater that could foil his green plan. He devised ways to counter it, and chose trees that could withstand water scarcity in the arid state. 

He bought six acres of land in Harima village near Nagaur in 1999 and over the years, planted 11 thousand saplings, and today that patch of land has turned into a lush green forest and is the abode of hundreds of animals and birds. “Nagaur experiment proves that plants can grow in saltwater. We carried water from elsewhere, mixed it with saltwater to nurture this forest. Watering these saplings was a task in itself, but totally worth it. Our successful experiment here proves it. There are all kinds of trees in this forest, and what better than trees for rainwater harvesting. These are the biggest oxygen generators,” he adds.

Himmata Ram Bhambhu

Currently, the septuagenarian is in mission mode to plant five lakh more saplings by 2030 in the state. “I look at the 7 Js – jal (water), jungle (forest), jameen (land), jeev (animals), jaivik (organic farming), jalvayu (climate change), and jansankhya (population) – as the major standpoints of my green plan because each are inter-related,” he highlights.


Rural Style for The Urban Mile


Fashion with a difference
Usha Silai, the handcrafted ensemble of thirty-six exquisite pieces blending the old stitching skills with modern design sensibilities, was a powerful narrative of empowerment and inclusivity in fashion on the Sustainable Fashion Day on February 1, 2018, at the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2018 in Mumbai. The debut of Usha Silai on the ramp marked the launch of the sustainable fashion label showcasing the work of rural women from Rajasthan, Bengal, Gujarat and Puducherry, trained through Usha International Limited’s community-based programme, Usha Silai School, and mentored by four renowned designers – Amit Vijaya and Richard Pandav, Sayantan Sarkar, Soham Dave and Sreejith Jeevan. The initiative, #ReimagineFashion, held in collaboration with IMG Reliance aims to empower women in rural areas with skills and resources to create clothes and accessories that can be retailed in the urban fashion market.
Delighted with the debut of Usha Silai label, Dr Priya Somaiya, Executive Director, Usha Social Services, says, “The brand has created a platform that has the power to impact and change the lives of many. Making use of local stitching skills and modern techniques, we will create an umbrella that caters to sustainable fashion in a modern language.” The collection had each cluster showcasing nine outfits, embracing grass root design intervention and highlighting the essence of the region. The designers who were on board for the project were thrilled at their association, admiring women for their strength and how a little push from them could help them soar high above in the sky. “In today’s context when #Whomademyclothes is more relevant than ever, the Usha Silai Project is a gem of an example that uses the power of design and fashion to make a difference. It illustrates so beautifully how fashion can be a tool to empower, co-create and coexist in spite of the maker and wearer being in two different contexts. Just like the villages feed the cities, the villages can also dress the cities,” says Jeevan. The designers used different elements and inspirations expressing their individualism in the ensemble, from architecture to attire, from women to machine, but all bearing the credits of the 30 rural women workers from different states who were a part of this project.
Dave, who worked with rural women in Dholka, Gujarat, named his collection The Black Machine. Drawing inspiration from Usha’s black sewing machine, from the basic colour, story to minute details, the collection was basic and functional as the machine itself, and the focus was on creating detailed surfaces on the black lock stitch machine. “The black paddled machine works on eternal human energy and not electricity. That’s the most sustainable way to make a garment. Like the paddled machine, I have also tried to incorporate sustainable design and fabrics to the collection,” he says about his collection, adding that it was a delightful and humbling experience to work with women from the Silai School.
On the other hand, Sarkar’s collection The Girl from the Pages of the Diary with rural women of 24 Parganas, West Bengal, was an experimental amalgamation of the contradiction of the Indian and Western silhouettes. Accentuating the basic Indian silhouettes and teaming it with western influences saw the designer use sarees over pants or skirts with summer trenches and shirts or kurtas with skirts and jackets. Sarkar used floral motif prints, embroidery and texture created on the fabric base of khadi, jamdani and motif weave, and for the colour palette, he stuck to dull pastels in shades of ice blue, pale brown, peach, lemon, orange and light olive. Sarkar held women whom he mentored in high regards. “Usha Silai label will be one of the greatest achievements in my life; it gave me the chance to be a part of a program that has given these talented women the respect which they always deserved, in a society where they are the least respected. From being regular housewives to creating a line of collection for the runway, they have done it all and will always do it because women are the strongest being,” says Sarkar.
The rural women from Usha’s Silai School in Kaladhera in Rajasthan were mentored by Vijaya and Pandav whose collection Rani’sthan was an ode to the queen in every woman through the study and deconstruction of the royal Rajasthani woman’s costume – The Poshak. Calling it a small contribution towards sustainable fashion, the duo says, “We drew inspiration from the traditional Poshak and deconstructed the look to present a collection of chic separates – shirts and tunics that evolve from the kurti, blousons and tops that spring from the kanchli, skirts and dresses that evolve from the lehenga, scarves, etc. Playing with the nature of contrasts, we offer fluidity with rigidity, rawness with refinement, constriction with the flow. The shape draws reference from the traditional look but has been updated to make it relevant for the queens of today.”
Jeevan, who mentored women in Puducherry that was once a window to the world, called his collection, Window to the World. “Every window has a story to tell about an old French colony, about the people who lived in them, about their favourite tree that enveloped it and about the way they saw me through them. There were so many stories that one simple window had to say and that inspired me to say the story of this collection made by ten different women, each one a window bringing in light to their lives. And I’m looking to find out their story through the window that is their work – Silai. And they are also, like the people inside the houses, looking at me to see what I can add,” quips Jeevan. Using this narrative, he connected the technique to the idea, the place and sewing techniques, and used various aspects of windows in Pondicherry to create garments for the collection.
And the label has created a fashion brand with a difference as Jaspreet Chandok, Head of Fashion, IMG Reliance, stated in the parting, “#ReimagineFashion establishes the principle that for Indian fashion to be forward, it needs to think local and leverage human potential at the grass root level for the development of a sustainable livelihood.”
The collections created by these four designers for ‘Usha Silai’ label will be launched in April 2018 with their exclusive retail partner Ogaan at their flagship store in Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi.