Hugs For Free
by Chhoti Si Asha Chandigarh on Dec 06, 2022
I remember vividly, half a cup of tea kept next to the computer screen, almost ignored. Fellow colleagues laughing and planning to take a break. I on the other hand, shaking my left leg relentlessly, anxious and restless. Working at a job that I was qualified for but never felt connected to. I continued working for a corporate giant for five years, just trying to fit in and make sense of my contributions. In the end though, it all made sense.
Located in the beautiful city of Chandigarh, the workshop is tucked away at the edge of the city, around the busy streets of a village. As you walk into the narrow lane occupied with big rural houses, you arrive at a grey walled building with Chhoti Si Asha painted in a shade of green and brown. As you enter, you pass a room on the left bustling with activity, women working on their sewing machines, sharing conversations and sounds of laughter. On your right, there’s a wall decorated with portraits of the team.
You’re now entering the big aangan/verandah taking you to the sewing room, a storage room and the stairs which takes you to the first floor. As I stand there in middle of the aangan, I could hear Manju didi singing, Poonam coordinating with Jyoti and Pinki in the storage room, Usha didi calling everyone for chai that she just made. In the sewing room, I get a massive bear hug from Bina didi followed by Manju didi. Both laughing and making me feel like home, as if I always belonged here in their presence.
I had planned to shoot a sequence about independence day, making the women talk about their idea of freedom. And oh, what incredibly inspiring statements our women artisans were giving. I could see how liberating it is for these women to leave their households and go out to work. It gives them a sense of accomplishment using their skills & techniques in creating some wonderfully crafted handicrafts at Chhoti Si Asha. I wouldn’t lie when I say-I had a tear or more when I heard their passionate minds speak.
Every-time as I visit the workshop and I’am welcomed with these hugs filled with love and compassion, I remember the overwhelming day I had in my cubical in the fancy building of my office. I belonged here, in between these inspiring stories and letting the world know about their immense strength.
Here I am, amidst these hugs for free!