After a long time in the pipeline I finally got back out to India in February this year to visit the various production and tailoring units we work with. Although my last trip incorporated a holiday, with a young family at home I didn’t have that luxury this time round - it was more a case of trying to fit as much as possible in a short amount of time. So with 8 flights in 9 days planned and 5 units to visit I knew it would be a full on trip. I brought Mark, a photographer friend, along for the trip (all pics courtesy of Mark Phillips, more to be posted on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter).Mark has travelled in India a few times and knows the lay of the land so he was ready for a busy trip and lots of good food.
As our boys are so young I had really mixed feelings about leaving for 9 days - not for them, I knew they’d be delighted hanging out with their dad for the time, it was more that I hadn’t had 9 days without one or two small people to be responsible for in over 3 years. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself and warned Mark I may feel the need to offer him snacks and ask him if he needed the toilet. It turns out I was fine and the novelty of just having myself to look after and being able to read uninterrupted was an extra bonus of the trip.
After a long flight from Dublin to Hyderabad (I can’t complain too much as I got bumped up to business class for the second leg!) we arrived with Kusuma Rajaiah, the founder of Ahimsa Silk. Here in his home we met with Rajaiah’s family and the beautiful moths that emerge from the silk cocoons before the silk is harvested. These moths are spared the fate of being boiled alive (like in regular silk production) and only the discarded cocoon is used for Ahimsa Silk.
After sampling the biryani that Hyderabad is famous for (it’d have been rude not to), the next morning we flew from Hyderabad to Raipur to visit the mill where the silk is spun into yarn. Although I knew the basics of yarn making I had no idea of the intricate system involved where each stage of the process was repeated at least 4 times to ensure top quality yarn. The mill was HUGE, like a small village and we had the privilege of staying in their on site guesthouse. After spending a day at the mill in Raipur, we took a morning flight to Bangalore in south India to visit the weavers and eat some masala dosa while still in the south (if you are yet to try masala dosa do so immediately. Ambala on Camden St. in Dublin make a fantastic one).
Bangalore was hot, busy and loud. We had seemed to escape the hustle and bustle in Hyderabad and Raipur so it was reassuring to see that Indian life was still as I had remembered it, at least down south. We visited the weavers where the silk is woven on autolooms that work at an unbelievable speed. Being on site meant I was fully able to talk with Rajaiah and the weavers about future developments rather than emailing back and forth so it was fantastic to get so much ground covered. Unsurprisingly, I could have done with more time there but I reckon that is always going to be the case when a trip has a tight timeframe.
After Bangalore, Rajaiah headed back to Hyderabad and Mark and I carried on to Dharmsala. With a full day of flying from south to north we arrived in the Himalayas where fresh air and (relative) calm awaited us. We headed straight for Eternal Creation’s Himalayan Tailoring Centre, where our products are tailored. The unit is terrific, great atmosphere and really lovely people working here. I suppose working surrounded by the stunning Himalayas has to rub off on your mood to some extent! I got to meet the tailors that work on our products and talk extensively with Ayaz, the head tailor. As the next day was a Saturday and the tailoring unit was closed meant we had the luxury of a day off. It had been a few years since I was last in Dharmsala so it was lovely to see the area again and take in a walk to a local waterfall. We had heard a sufi fusion band (don’t ask me to explain) were playing in a local rooftop bar that night and went along to check it out. Although it was pretty cold, everyone, both tourists and locals, got really into the music and it was a good laugh and nice to enjoy an aul Kingfisher beer.
Sunday was mainly spent flying from Dharamsala to Jaipur via Delhi. I had never been to Rajasthan before so it was great to see even a small part of it. Jaipur is known as the pink city, and it really is pink, and pretty, and very clean. We stayed at a guesthouse that had the sweetest garden I’ve seen with plants and flowers potted in teacups and rabbits roaming around in the morning time. In Jaipur I visited another fairtrade tailoring unit, Mehera Shaw, where our new sleepwear range is being developed. Here they have created a new dyeing unit and carry out traditional block printing which is all food for thought for me now. I even tried my hand at block printing and had the pleasure of seeing the artists at work.
After a fascinating day at the tailoring and dyeing units in Jaipur and eating delicious Rajasthani thali, it was onto Delhi for a night in the old backpacker haunt of Paherganj before my flight home the next day. A beautifully uneventful flight back to Dublin saw me suddenly back home on Tuesday night reading bedtime stories to my three year old and dreaming of a traveling adventure for the whole family to go on.
Thanks for reading,