We have been working with Cotton in Rajasthan, West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir for some time now. While the raw material is same, the finished fabric looks, feels & behaves differently, just like its lovely natives and the stories they tell.
Textiles indigenous to Rajasthan are super absorbent to counter the heat & sweat, the ones from West Bengal are super fine to counter the sultry and tropical climate and the ever elegant Cashmere Cotton™ is just beyond words for us.
In the coming days we will be sharing three stories from these three states and our explorations in cotton from these places. Little personal and a little technical. Stay tuned for small slices of our journeys while we share the first part here-
Growing cotton & onion needs adequate amounts of water and work is something Rajasthan as a state lacks. Famous for its sands, the state does have rare patches of intense green and one such patch is Sariska National Park in Alwar which is surrounded by hills. Sariska's greenery contributes to its rich water table and this bowl of forest acts as a natural reserve for the tigers and many other wild animals. The area beyond the hills is where the farmers grow their prized cash crops of onion & cotton.
On an early Sunday morning in November of 2018, we left for Alwar with a bag full of home-made sandwiches, water and an empty bag to bring back cotton buds for an experiment we still are working on. The journey with all its stops took us some 4 hours. We spent the entire day hopping between the cotton farm & the onion farm sometimes plucking cotton and sometimes onion. The farmers were gracious enough to invite us for goat milk tea. The hot beverage was a sweet soupy delight but the goats didn’t seem happy about us having it. They gave us a cold stare when we tried to caress them. Perhaps they din't approve of unknown city buffoons. The farmers however, were extremely warm. When they learnt they we really were eyeing cotton buds and the fresh harvest of onions, they insisted on gifting those to us. We felt otherwise and as we bid farewell to the farmers, we picked up 25 kgs of onion and paid them for it. An overzealous young man put in an extra bag full of cotton buds because they felt we had over paid them. As we drove back into the sunset, we were a little bitter about returning to city to the impending pile of work.
The next few days however were not spent working. Instead, time went in getting the car cleaned because it would not stop smelling of onions and cleaning our studio/workshop. Because you see, that was the year a large chunk of BT cotton fields were infested with pink boll-worm & other pests that only come out once the buds open up. They came along in the ride!
Stay tuned for Part 2 & 3.