Slowly but surely, my Fulbright research is ramping up. Each day, after three hours of Hindi class, a brief lunch, and wrangling with rickshaw drivers, I’ve been sneaking in research “field trips.” Last week, I went to Dastkar’s Nature Bazaar — twice.Dastkar is an Indian “society for crafts and craftspeople…that aims at improving the economic status of craftspeople, thereby promoting the survival of traditional crafts.” The organization annually hosts the largest craft show in India, the Nature Bazaar – just in time for Diwali shopping!
Dastkar brings together the widest array of high quality handcraft products and techniques that I have come across in one location. If only the fair happened more than once a year! To make up for this loss, I’ve been going as often as possible – twice so far last week and plans to go at least twice again before the fair ends. (For research purposes, of course!) The Nature Bazaar is both a direct-to-consumer retail opportunity for craftspeople, hailing from every corner of India, as well as essentially a tradeshow venue. Buyers from all over the world travel to Dastkar to examine what innovative, creative items have been developed over the past year. I spent my time at Dastkar ogling and petting every piece of cloth in sight and talking with as many artisans as possible. I was surprised to discover that some of the vendors already sell at or have relationships with big American brands. I talked with a weaver from Rajasthan (northwest India) who sells his gorgeous handwoven, naturally dyed shawls at ABC Carpet & Home in NYC (a drool-worthy store, to say the least), as well as Archana Kumari, a charming embroidery designer whose products may be appearing in Anthropologie this year. (Fingers crossed!) The Dastkar bazaar is my happy place.
In addition to the endless array of crafts, the Nature Bazaar features food and performances from all over India. During my two visits, I treated myself to pyaz kachori (sort of like a fried pita pocket filled with onion and spiced deliciousness), stick kulfi (tall, thin, pyramid-shaped, cashew-flavored ice cream on a stick), and methi parantha with raita (fenugreek-spiced, bready pancake served with yogurt sauce). I also watched and attempted to film traditional Rajasthani dance performances. (You’ll figure out from the video that this is my first attempt to film live-action with my camera. The film gives you an idea of what the dance and music was like, if you can manage to avoid getting motion sickness. Future films will be better – I promise!)