Sunday, February 14, 2010

Charkha Wheel

Yesterday was the Cotton Spinning workshop at the Guild. It was challenging, but in a fun relaxed kind of way. A small group of students and an experienced, committed teacher--in fact we ended up joking about Evangelism and the process of making converts by the end of the day: she was so keen on our "conversion" to cotton spinning".

I brought home this baby to practice with: It's a book charkha: so called because the box folds into the exact shape and size of a hardback book.
Now, these box charkhas were designed and made for the Indian people to use--it was a deliberate part of Ghandi's push for independence. I was painfully reminded how much thinner and more flexible than me the average Indian probably is. Apart from the challenges of spinning cotton fibres on the little pointed spindle, I found sitting on the floor with my arms and legs in all the right places and my bulges out of the way of the process quite tricky. Perhaps I've finally found a good motivation to lose weight and exercise more--so I can spin cotton on a charkha . . .

The genuiness of the article was dramatically reinforced when I met M for a coffee after class. Of course I pulled out the charkha and opened it up on the table to show my friend what we'd been doing. It immediately caught the attention of one of the waiters. "It's a classic", he said", "my Grandfather used to have one of those!" That made me doubly happy about the wheel. Not only am I learning the real craft as practiced in India by people who spin cotton for a living, but I found an instant connection with a young man who has inevitably experienced prejudice because of his race. Only a momentary spark of connection, but it made me glad.

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