Dale Says

January 13, 2014

Naresh Dreams of Paris

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dale @ 2:59 pm

There are so many people in India that need help, and it’s impossible to help them all. But we wanted to make just a few of their lives a tiny bit better if we could. On our last day in India, we found an opportunity.

On some of our travels we have bought a small landscape painting from a street artist; an inexpensive reminder of the country. We wanted one from India, and we had let it go until our last day.

When we left our hotel that morning, a local tour guide was in front, waiting for a client. We asked him if he knew anywhere in Varanasi we buy an inexpensive painting of the city. We said his brother was an art student in town. By now, we were used to being sent to people’s cousins, or “brother-wives” and we weren’t expecting much. When he said his brother worked at a chai shop just down the street, we were even more cautious. But, what the heck, it was our last day, and there was nothing else we had to do, so we made our way down the street, past the pilgrims bathing in the Ganges River and the piles of firewood for the funeral pyres.

There were two brothers at the chai shop, which was simply a table set up in the street. As we sipped the pro-offered cups of chai tea, we visited with the brothers. One of them, the older of the two, knew more English, and he was the “slick” one. He was dressed Western style, and his long, curly hair, sunglasses, rings, and cell phone would have fit in Los Angeles. His younger brother, Naresh, was his polar opposite: quiet, less English, and more traditionally dressed. But the younger one was more interesting. He worked part-time at the chai shop, went to school full-time, and was studying to be an artist. He wants to design fabrics, like those used to make saries, and he whispered that his dream was to go to Paris.

We explained to Naresh that we wanted to see some of his paintings, which he had created for art class, and he agreed to get some from his locker at school and meet us back at the chai shop. When the appointed hour arrived, there was Naresh, with a small bag of his work.

He does mostly landscape pieces, in ink and water color. Many of them depict what he sees from the chai shop — scenes of the riverbanks and the buildings of Varanasi. His work is good for a first-year student, and he likes to paint in vibrant colors: yellows, oranges, and greens. He called it “modern” art (his favorite artist is Piccaso), which is a bit of an oxymoron for this ancient city. But we liked it. We picked out 2-3 and lined them up on the table. We were leaning toward one, and he said nothing until we asked his opinion. He pointed to another similar one, which he preferred because it had more color and more work in it. We went with his choice, and he proudly wrapped it in a bag.

We asked how much he wanted for our new painting. He took a deep breath and told us he would like 800 rupees (around $13). We agreed and handed over the money. Naresh beamed! We then quietly handed him another 1,000 rupees (about $16) and told him it was “for his dream.” He was really touched, and he took our hands and then wished us namaste. Off we went to our hotel and our lives.

We think about Naresh whenever we look at his painting of Varanasi. It’s certainly not a masterpiece, and we’re sure he will develop skill as he continues his studies. But it reminds us of our time in Varanasi and it reminds us of Naresh. We hope he becomes a famous artist and we hope he has a good life. But, more than anything, we hope he makes it to Paris.

January 6, 2014

The Rug Weaver

Filed under: Colorful Characters, Profile — Dale @ 12:34 pm

Madan sits on the ground in front of his house cross-legged and barefoot and works on his hand-made loom. He runs a chai tea shop and sells rugs that he and his family make on a hilltop in the country north of the town of Udiapur, India. His isn’t a real shop, just a room filled with rugs and a table for the tea. Madan works 10-12 hours a day, every day, weaving rugs. He learned to make rugs from his father, who learned it from his father. He made his own loom from logs, stones, and iron and he uses instruments of wood and iron that were made by his grandfather. He creates his own designs for his rugs, and dyes his own yarn using natural ingredients such as marigold leaves, turmeric, and indigo.

The rug Madan is working on is about two-thirds finished, so he will work on it about week or two before it is completed and he can put it with the other rugs in the room next to his loom. If he is really lucky it will sell in a month or two.
Madan looks up as we enter and smiles broadly. He seems to be a happy man. He is dressed neatly in a blue dress shirt and dark pants, and his black hair and mustache are neatly trimmed. He has a vertical orange smear above his eyebrows, which indicates he has been to Hindu temple recently. His manner is quiet and hopeful. He demonstrates how he weaves the yarn through his loom and we are fascinated by how quickly and accurately his hands move the different colors of yarn and the parts of the loom. He picks up a tool and compresses the yarn he has just added to his rug and shows how that makes the weaving so tight it is water proof – the water he pours onto the rug pools and sits on the surface.
His four brothers are rug weavers, too, and he tells us in his broken English about his family and the tradition and pride his family has in making rugs. We look at a few of his rugs and fall in love with two of them. We ask their price and hold our breath; after all, he has worked a month on each of them. He does some quick calculations in his head and gives us a price of 9,100 rupees – about $150. We agree, pay him, and he packs our rugs neatly into a small bag.

Before we go, he takes a piece of his home-made yarn and ties a bracelet around each of our wrists. Then he shakes our hands, and we feel the warmth and sincerity in his touch. He gives us a card with his name and address and asks us to send him a photo of his rugs in their new home. Then he clasps his hands, fingers pointing upward in a prayer position, bows, and wishes us namaste. We feel a warm and wonderful connection with him.

Madan is sitting there today on the ground outside his modest home, weaving a rug. He probably hasn’t thought about us again, because he has his own thoughts and his own life to live. But we have thought about him a lot. We love the rugs he made, and we still wear the bracelets he gave us. He is an artist who reached out to us and touched us, and he gave us two rugs that he spent two months of his life making. And our lives are better because we met him.

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