Saturday, 28 February 2009

Washing and drying

Tanks for washing and rinsing cloth to remove
neerani mixture

Another process - dyed cloth, beaten using a dhoki
paddle to dislodge resist pastes.

Print drop cloths, washed and drying in sun

Madder dye and printed cloth

Spread out on the ground to dry


Time for chai?


We spent a glorious morning with Dr. Ishmail, who took us through the process of Ajrahk - hand block printing and resist dyeing.   Natural dyes are used - indigo, madder and printed mordants.   To complicated to go into great depth here, but there are books on the subject, and I am sure you can google "Ajrahk" for more details.

Dr. Ishmail Mohammed Khatri - master dyer

Dyeing area for vegetable dyes

Background - preparation of iron water
Foreground - linen, dye painted black, dyeing in sun

A peek at the indigo vat- showing the indigo 'rose'.

Printing blocks

Dhori gach resist - tree gum, clay,
water and miller flower paste

The process of printing and dyeing the cloth takes
fourteen stages, from scouring the original 'grey' cloth
with three soakings in neerani solution, consisting of
a mixture of castor oil, soda ash and camel dung;
dyeing, printing, resists and then the final wash.

The finished cloth

I scribbled away making notes, trying to remember each process, but I think I might 
have to invest in a book!   Dr. Ishamil was a very generous host, answering many 
questions.  I have a scaled down recipe for iron water - roll on a hot summer, in the 
meantime I shall be scouring Dorset for bits of iron to add to the pot.

After wandering round the block printing area, looking at bubbling vats, yards of 
printing blocks,  it was time for chai.  I will leave it to your imagination the joys 
of the cupboard, pulling out wonderful pieces of ajrahk fabric.  Of course, a few 
pieces made their way to Oz and England.

Friday, 27 February 2009

How do they do that?

Beautifully embroidered panel, with round, square and triangular mirrors.
True shisha cannot be bought other than in a rough round shape, so how
to make other shapes?  "Just cut with scissors" was always the reply.

Aha, a breakthrough!   This trip I found the answer - these rather 
evil, but effective snips.    Still trying to find where shisha is
blown and slivered, tantalizingly close.  Maybe all will be
revealed next trip?!!

More pix on indigo, ajrakh printing and natural dyeing soon.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009


North of Bhuj there are many villages, each specialising in a particular craft. It's a grand day out - travelling from Bhuj to the most northern villages, almost as far the Rann of Kutch and the Parkistan border.

Zura is famous for it's lac work, with the additional bonus
of rather 'interesting' dolls made by the children.

Bell making in Nirona.   The bells are used by shepherds and cowherds to locate their herds.   Made from waste iron sheets, the pattern is marked out and converted into a bells with beating and punching and shaping.   The handle is fixed then the bell shape is covered in mud water and sprinkled with small bits of brass and copper. A mold is made with clay to cover the bell, which is then placed in a charcoal fire. The temperature is increased to fuse the metal.  
On breaking open the mold the bell is no longer iron, but has a wonderful metallic patina.     The bell is beaten on the
edge with a hammer to obtain the desired sound - finally the tongue made of wood is fixed from the inside.   The bells go from huge to tiny.

Meanwhile there is always the washing to do.

The painted bhungos of Ludia are worth a visit

Interior wall decoration - the dark pieces are mirrors

The potter at Khavda - hand turned terracotta water pots, 
dishes, bells and chai cups

Decorating dishes

Monday, 23 February 2009

Home Again

Back in the UK - not quite the heat and blue skies of India.   Nevertheless, a quiet awakening to the day with the dawn chorus of garden birds, instead of the racket of India crows.   Daffodils in tight bud, snowdrops, primroses, violets and crocus in flower.   

Things we take for granted - hot water and power shower.  Bucket and jug the preferred choice in India - water temperature variable.  We had a period of four days with only tepid water to wash with. When hot water was available, it was so good.

Taj Hotel  Mumbai

Aly and I decided on our trip to India just a few days before the terrorist attack in the Colaba district of Mumbai. Many friends were concerned given the situation.  I know the area very well and, like the whole world, was shocked and saddened to see the events unfold.

Our hotel is just down the road from The Taj, and it was wonderful to see that the building is restored (on the outside only?)  to it's former glory.  Colaba is as mad and bustling as ever - life goes on.

Since it was difficult to keep the blog up to date (well if you stay in a kooba hut and travel to the wild west of Gujarat, what do you expect?)   I will be posting over the next few days on visits to Dr. Ishmail/ashrak printing, Alimohammed/ bhandani and natural dyeing, and more.  

Like hot water, and many other things we take for granted, how easy is it just to turn on the computer and it all works?!!!   

Thanks for all the comments.  Carol - if I knew where I could get sari waste I would bring back loads.   I think it originates from Nepal.  Haven't seen any in Delhi or Mumbai - although there is probably a back street in Old Delhi and a godown full of the stuff!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

A wander in Mumbai

Blissfully unaware, this cat sleeps through the noise of a busy street

Crawford Market

Any particular colour cashew?


Fruit stall

Car park attendants hut




getting ready to leave early tomorrow morning.  We had
the most fantastic time, and it was great being together
for a whole two weeks.  So, here's some pictures of 
places and people we met on the way,

Aly and our car, with her precious case on top.
The stopover at the border of Rajasthan and
Gujarat.   The case made the journey safely, but
will never be the same colour again.

Aly and Ranju (as featured in Michael Palin's Around the World
in 20 years).   Ranju is a lovely lady, with a gorgeous textile
shop in Bhuj.   I've known her for nine years, and it is always
a joy to meet up again, especially when invited to supper at
her home for fabulous curries.

Students we meet in Bhuj - they wanted our autographs - how did they 
know we were famous?!!  They are studying IT so promised I would
add picture in blog.  Hi there.  The white person is me!

A weaver from Bhujodi relaxing on the veranda.  The mud jar
behind him is incrusted with raised mud work and mirrors

Friday, 20 February 2009

last leg

We are on the last leg of our journey.  Arrived in Mumbai
late this afternoon.   The hotel originally planned to stay
in was, to say the least, filthy.  So we are the Sea
Palace Hotel, in the same road, facing the sea, as the
Taj Hotel so much in the news in November.  It looks
fine from this end, will investigate further tomorrow.

Oh luxury - wifi, Applemac, soft beds and pillows, a 
shower that works, no more jug and bucket.   As I write
we are being entertained by a 'native band' outside.
After posting, we will hit the town - take a walk around
Colaba, then a cold beer, supper and bed.

I have so many things to post, but it has been difficult
in the extreme.  Expect lots of stories over the coming
week when I am home!

In the meantime, the boats I promised on the last blog.

Throughout the Little Rann of Kutch there are islands
in the barren landscape.  Imagine the surprise when
we can across these boats.   During the monsoon the
Rann in flooded, and the whole place becomes a
fishing ground for prawns!  Quite bizarre.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Part III

Bit of a techo here, it isn't on my Mighty Drive! Later!
Hmm.......viewed blog. Interesting spacing and font sizes, as here!

Found good Cyber Cafe, so tune in for more tomorrow

Little Rann Part II

The bedroom!
Gathering fodder for the cattle.
This does look meager food -more like lichen than grass

Sunset over the Rann
Well that was a bit of a catch up!

But I have found one more photo to upload!

Little Rann of Kutch

Opps, back to the Kooba again- this should have been our delicious bedroom!
Although camp beds, the mattress was stuffed with cotton, and the quilt
the same. It was so warm and comfy, just like a nest.

So why the Rann of Kutch? Well, it is a vast area, flooded during the monsoon, but now dry.

The home of the Wild Ass, actually they are rather beautiful, and very shy. Also salt pans

cover much of the Rann- about 70% of all salt produced comes from Gujarat. Flamingos,

more avocets than you can count, and the lesser Crane on migration from Siberia. Quite

large birds, who scratch in the dry scrub for seeds - the juicy inside is about the size

of a peppercorn, which doesn't seem much to sustain them.

The salt is dryed and gathered from the pans, and rather
like a 'black' ballet men pile the salt up, which is loaded
into the women's pans. They walk purposely to the salt
pile and throw. Then the dance begins again. Awful work,
and, of course, no health and safety. The women wear
gloves and socks, but I would think not too much protection.
Even driving through the Rann you are concious of the salt
in the air, drying lips and skin.

Salt pans

There is a really weird effect when travelling - you could swear

in the distance there is water, with many small boats. Mirage -

as you near it is the shacks of the workers.

Salt being loaded on to lorry

Monday, 16 February 2009


Yes we are still here - haven't been spirited off to
distant hills. Lot of travelling, to get to the kooba hut.
No communications here, just one tiny light bulb.

Stops for refeshment at a Dhaba hut - nice chai

Fellow traveller

Arrived in Bhuj - town of crashing computers.
Found solution at last - albeit I have broken my
reading glasses and this screen is wobbley -
excuse typo's. Trip to the main man, font of
all knowledge on indigo dyeing yesterday. Now
to visit tribal villages to the north. Will blog
tonight, since this computer seems to be just fine!