Woking to Wardha
Amit Dalvi writes about his visit to the Gram Art Community, formally known as the Gram Art Project. Amit and Swapnaja recently moved from Woking in the UK to work in the villages of Wardha in central India, to search for a new way of living and working more aligned to their values. The following is an account of their visit to Paradsinga to meet their friends Tanmay and Shweta and the community they are now a part of.
Gram Art Community
Mahatma Gandhiji has correctly said ,”The soul of India lives in its villages“. We recently experienced this during our visit to the art community in village Paradsinga. This village is based on the border of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. After returning from Woking and settling in Wardha, this was our first long journey from Wardha in our new car was to visit our friends and very enthusiastic couple, Tanmay and Shweta who are the pillars of Gram Art Project. They are also the driving force behind Beejpatra, the business arm of the community.
The Gems of Gram Art Community
We had a thoughtful chat with the other members of the community after gulping sips of special tea. It was an overwhelming experience meeting the young entrepreneurs, young professionals in their twenties and thirties. Filled with knowledge and energy which can never go unnoticed
Tanmay, the guide of the team, strongly believes in the Gandhian philosophy. He was also with Gram Sewa Mandal (a volunteering organisation in Wardha, founded by Vinoba Bhave) for 3 years. He supported GSM in building an effective working system for the organisation.
Shweta, his wife, is a connoisseur and uses her artistic skills to throw light the social issues in the society. Additionally, she organises artists residencies from the world to explore ways for a improving life in the village
Vedant, one of the energetic team members, is studying law to read between the lines and help farmers on the policy leve
Aditi, an art student, has put a huge contribution in setting up the handmade paper unit.
Nutan, a young artist, gives inputs for designing the seed products for Beejpatra. Moreover she has taught the macrame art to women of neighbouring villages.
Apart from the core team members, there are many villagers who are actively involved in this project.
Handmade Paper Unit of Gram Art Project
Adjacent to the kitchen garden is handmade paper unit. We were astonished by seeing the small paper unit which was completely handmade. Except for the mixer unit that prepared pulp for the paper.
There is also a hand calendaring unit that gives a fine finish to handmade paper with seeds on the paper remaining intact. This hand made paper is used to make calendars and cards. The interesting thing about the calendar is that the page of every month has seeds that can be sowed the next month.
A Visit to the Community Farm
Afterwards we visited Tanmay and Shweta’s farm near the village. They had built a wooden platform, a machan in the middle of the farm to protect the crops from wild boars. He expressed his views on cotton value chain, “cotton is the most important crop in our region but beyond growing, nothing is in the hands of farmers. Right from seeds they sow to the post harvest processing of cotton, the control lies with big corporations whose only aim is to maximise profits. And with little concern about the price which farmers and our eco-system are paying.
Tanmay briefed us about how indigenous cotton, also known as desi cotton, is economically and ecologically viable to solve farmer’s problems. To bring back farmers’ sovereignty over our own systems, they have themselves started revived cultivation of indigenous cotton, using seeds produced by farmers. The cotton is then processed locally into hand-spun threads and cloth to make different products such as seed-bands, seed rakhi, seed balls, seed crackers jewellery, artefacts, and other daily use items, clothes. In addition to that, they are doing various farming experiments like discovering the perennial nature of desi cotton and growing food crops by minimising irrigation.
Delicious Meals prepared with Organically Grown Produce
After the long day, we sat for dinner with the lovely family members. Shweta’s mum and Meena tai prepared very delicious food for us. The most gracious part was that it’s served with a lot of love. Such hospitality is priceless.
While returning home we were completely immersed into the thought of how this young team are trying to live in nature by balancing their financial needs under the shadow of Beejpatra/Gram Art Project. Hats off to their dedication and honest efforts!!
Land Art: Letting Seeds Tell a Story
“Expressing ourselves is of utmost importance in a democracy. A singer uses her voice to express, an actress her acting skills and a writer her pen. We, farmers, have our farms, labour and crops for expressing ourselves. So why not use this life-giving medium of ours to speak our hearts out in front of the world? Thus using this medium, we create land arts. We sow seeds in our farms in such a manner that after germination these farms tell the stories of our achievements, challenges and livelihoods.”
Photo credit: Amit Dalvi