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A touch of Shirali in your home - Samvit Sudha

22 MAY 2016 Deepa Shailendra
Samvit Sudha

The Shirali Math and Chitrapur village in the Bhatkal district of Uttar Kanara evokes a rush of strong emotion from your dyed-in-wool Bhanap. The green paddy fields, the swaying coconut palm, the Mangalore-tiled homes with the mandatory tulsi-kattey , the mossy stone walls with green fern growing out of its crevices, the sweet aroma of burning logs that fire up the copper bhaana; these are sights and smells much cherished by the Chitrapur Saraswat.

I had my ‘amchi feels’ on, and in high beam during my recent visit to the Shirali Math; when my attention was arrested by a charming store, a few steps away from the entrance to the Math. The Samvit Sudha is a quaint handicraft boutique that showcases a range of the most unusual gift items, made out of organic textiles. The elevation of the store resembles a traditional Mangalorean house. A brick-red terracotta façade, embellished by the most beautiful Warli art in white contrast brings the store-front to life and creates an inviting ambience for the visitor. A weaved coir thoran across the lintel level completes the look of rustic felicity.

The Samvit Sudha, I learnt, was established in 1999 with the objective of providing an alternative source of employment and empowering the women of their agrarian community. It was one of the many initiatives of the Parijnan Foundation to set up a model village in Chitrapur. It was refreshing to learn that a visitor had many avenues to be a part of the development project. Visitors can sponsor a sewing machine or donate towards the other self-empowerment schemes for the villagers. What began as a vocational training centre producing cotton bags and school uniforms for the local school, soon blossomed into a fabulous boutique opportunity, with dedicated tailoring and embroidery units. Volunteers from the creative Konkani diaspora from across the nation came down to add to the creative energy of the place.

As they experimented with different fabrics and styles, an interesting product line evolved that was eco-friendly and unique, while at the same time drawing inspiration from different needlepoint styles – mirror work from Kutch and Rajasthan, Kasuti of Dharwad, Warli from Maharashtra, Kantha from Bengal and the delicate Kashida embroidery etc.

What impressed me most was the product line that has a sturdy range of cotton bags from large tote bags to snazzy collapsible shopping bags (with a hook to hang off your handbag), travel pouches in delightful colors and patterns, formal handbags, informal satchels and trendy jholees. I browsed through a beautiful collection of illustrated storybooks for children published by the Parijnan Foundation. Gifting items and interior décor accessories range from cotton stoles and dupattas to hanging panels and valances upcycled from textile cast-offs, eye-catching coasters, silk gift pouches and stationery items including gift covers, file folders and gorgeous cloth lined diaries with a hint of hand-made art.

We picked up beautiful travel overnight bags that would serve beautifully to carry our laptop and charger with ample space to stow away other accessories and devices.

What makes such a retail experience significant is the realization that when you use an organically designed product, which has seen selfless service throughout its manufacturing process; you are investing in giving back to that community. The beautiful elemental and random experiences that coincidentally happen to you are the spin-off of using such a beautiful product!!

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