Artisan
12 Sep
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Mentor teacher guide

In 2007 Balwinder’s safe world collapsed as her husband suddenly passed away. Left with two small
children the shy, reticent housewife decided she had to find work to survive and raise her family. That
was when she reached the dusty village school and met up with Swami at Purkul Youth Development
Society (PYDS) looking for a school for her children and work for herself.

Swami who ran PYDS took her children in and directed Balwinder to his wife, Chinni. That was when
Balwinder started learning stitching and making her first potli pouch, yoga bags before learning
patchwork quilt. It wasn’t easy as everything was in the nascent stage. She would wake up at four, cook a
quick breakfast for her children and take the school bus early by 7.30 am only to return at 8 pm to make
them dinner. ‘It was very tough. Worse the family would taunt me about my work and ask why I was out
so late, but in those days buses were very few. For us it was survival and today no one says anything as
we are self reliant and have never asked them for anything.’

Balwinder stuck on and when the number of women rose from a handful to 170 she became the leader of
one self help group and today works as the Superviser. While her son didn’t study after class eight and is
now training to become an electrician, her daughter much to her pride has finished her Masters. ‘As
Superviser I check everything that is given out to women on vouchers and at submission that usually
takes place by 14th

of every month. I also check what goes on display and help with packing for

exhibitions.’

‘The first exhibition I went to, I was so afraid leaving home. I would be always behind folding quilts
afraid to meet people thronging our stalls. I used to be tongue tied with fright in front of so many smart
looking people. Then more exhibitions followed. My daughter could manage to cook and look after the
house,’ she pauses, her eyes shine with excitement. ‘Before I had never been out of Dehradun, but I have
been to so many places now, you name it I have been there – Chennai, Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore,
Calcutta – its makes me feel I can be just like any one of them who come to the exhibtion. At times
people say our quilts are expensive but I tell them do you know each small stitch is hand made and it
takes us one to one and half months to make the quilt. There is no argument after that – they always buy it
and get their friends over to buy the next time round.’

‘I have come a long way – I am my own woman. I never in my life thought I could say that. I want my
daughter to be a thousand times better than me and travel even further.’

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