Tilonia Bazaar is back with a bang after a break in Bangalore, bringing along its riot of colours and patch-worked fabrics

Multi-hued quilts and bedcovers. Comfortable palazzo pants and skirts in rainbow shades. Mojaris and chappals. Kurtas, kurtis, tops. The signature blue pottery. Wall-hangings, bags, furniture, wooden toys. Swathes of colour. A melange of fabric. A multitude of dreams.

Going barefoot

The bazaar is after all an offshoot of a very big dream — the Barefoot College in the village of Tilonia in Rajasthan. Established in 1972 by social worker Bunker Roy, the college focuses on sustaining rural livelihood and preserving their crafts, culture and heritage.

According to Shweta Rao of Tilonia, “This was essentially a rural-urban partnership. We wanted to provide rural India with a solution in which they retained and used their own traditional skills and practices to facilitate their empowerment. The college offers training in different skills, gives craftspeople recognition, and economic empowerment.”

The Institute has been particularly beneficial to women of the village.

According to Naurti Devi, veteran social worker and women’s activist who has been part of the movement since its inception, and is also the current Sarpanch of Harmara: “Rajasthan is a drought-prone state and we often face huge financial difficulties. The women of this state are kept closeted in their homes and are not allowed to work. When the Barefoot College (formerly called the Social Work and Research Centre) was set up, they trained the women in small skills — like how to use a needle and thread and we began making Bell Totas (tiny decorative parrots). We then learnt how to use sewing machines and went on to make these bed sheets, durries, bags, kurtas, skirts. We can now work from home and be independent.”

Where women rule

Ganeshi Bhai who mans or rather woman’s a stall at the exhibition selling colourful bed linen is one such success story. “I have not gone to school and cannot read and write. I joined the Barefoot College in 1996 and learnt how to do embroidery and patch work,” she says displaying her wares. “Today, I have also learnt to bill products.” Badri Lal, coordinator, laughs and says he is the sexual minority here: “There are only 10 men involved — most of the work is done by women. This increases employment and generates more income. Also, the money is paid through bank accounts and we have an equal wage system. We were the first rural group to come up with the concept of a bazaar, as far back as 1975. These bazaars serve several purposes — they showcase the craft, they provide livelihood options and they also inspire the younger generation to learn their traditional crafts and not let it die.”

The Tilonia Bazaar is at Safina Plaza, Infantry Road and is on till the October 20. Visit their blog www.tiloniabazaar.blogspot.in for details.