In Still Life with Woodpecker, Tom Robbins declares that “Americans watch the clock, but the clock watches Indians.” It often feels like the whole western world is obsessed with time, while India, although gradually embracing modernity, still moves to its own Bollywood beat.
If you are on holidays, this is a beautiful experience. Life is not locked into a series of dates, hours, minutes and seconds, and everything flows in a strange river of controlled chaos. When you are working with India it can be a different story. When I first witnessed the madness of life here, I thought it was a miracle that our pyjamas even arrived in Australia, let alone neatly folded and nicely pressed! The more time you spend here, the more you realise how each carefully calculated movement creates a functioning system! Sure, there are challenges faced with language barriers and different concepts of time, but we can also appreciate the other idiosyncrasies such as the fact that meetings are usually undertaken barefoot, with cup of chai close by.
This time it’s been quite a special trip, as my design partner Betony and I have never travelled to India together. Our journey began in Bangalore visiting an organic expo with our current knit manufacturers, Kaarthik and Anand. We then hurtled down into Tamil Nadu–the state that clothes the world-Tiruppur being one of the largest knit manufacturing towns in the world.
Kaarthik and Anand met at university, and are both in their late twenties, like Betony and I. They have a very similar partnership to us too, an unlikely pair who started a company together. Kaarthik is the smooth talking business man–a relaxed Hindu who in his spare time helps mixed-caste lovers elope in temples, which often leads him to trouble with disapproving parents! Anand is also a sucker for true love, a fan of Korean rom-coms and a passionately speaks against the injustices to women in oppressive societies. They have a humble little factory just outside Tirrupur surrounded by lush grass and colourful houses. Employing 30 women and men as machinists, 2 merchandisers Govind and Shiva and a pattern master, their unit is small compared to the industrial sewing lines of many nearby factories. They work with local print and dye houses that have the time to work with our relatively low minimums.
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