Grass is always greener on the other side and in some cases, it is greener and dreamier by your side.
The majestic Devarayanadurga Mountains were looming ahead as I navigated my way into Tumkur with TB Dinesh, a scientist who gave it all up in the USA and returned to his hometown. All along the journey he recalled the mountain he used sit on as a young boy to watch the town to sunsets and sunrises, without comprehending how memory was storing these vintage moments. In spite of the halogen bulb and the tall structures of the Big Apple, he still yearned to return to the path where the goats trudge sheepishly at their own pace munching on leaves and the grass that grows around this sleepy town called Tumkur with the Shimsha river running its course into its abundance ahead. He longed for this memory of the swaying coconut trees and the looming mountain rising from nooks and corners, reminding us of our insignificance in the cosmos we think we own, and believe that we are stronger than the mountains, the river and the sky above us.
The grass growing in this region (a species of Bulrush, called Jondu in Kannada) has for long been used to make thatched roofs and woven into fish nets by the tribals and the locals of Tumkur.
Dinesh wanted to create more with this abundant natural fibre.
What followed was a space with women from the village in a studio overlooking the mountains, the clear blue skies and an even clearer vision in creating pride for the skill the village women were born into.
I met women who were weaving the grass bags, mats, tableware, and many other lifestyle products. I picked up this one bag with its leather strap and leather cover in tan. I quickly put in my phone, my little black diary of secrets and hung it across my dress, over my shoulder. It fitted in just right with my ensemble!
I sat after a sumptuous lunch of Ragi Mudde with curry at a tribal woman’s home in the nook of a large Peepal tree, watching the sun go down, the peacocks scurry and cry, the cows were grazing all fat and lazy all along aware that this is abundance.
The women were marching ahead in creating designs. As I watched them skillfully weave the grass into knots with needles and with hope.
I made notes and my footnote says “ life is beautiful with the mundane, marvellous, the dreamers and the insane who own nothing but the self”
I am enamoured with the path Dinesh has chosen. And I am hoping the products from Iruway will be on the shelves of stores with the smell of the fresh grass and the love of the women weaving it.
Dinesh with his matted locks of wisdom, sharp wit and shining, smiling eyes speaks to me, as he walks around the village, sharing his dream.
He says, about the crafter space project, “Craft work is about observing natural material around and finding workable combinations of these materials to make utilitarian and ornamental objects such as basket weaving, lamp shades, boxes. On a base of indigenous knowedge, skill and experience, one can innovate for new needs such as ID tags, badges and personalised messaging using laser etching etc so there is minimal use of chemical pigments but requiring progressive maker tool skills. My dream for Iruway is for it to be an inclusive laboratory of holistic technology exploration.“
As of today, Iruway has several active projects, which include this crafter space, a natural farming initiative, a natural building project, a hacker’s space, and a community radio station.
Dreamers are the ones who have changed the world. As they say, in “insanity”, often you find sanity.