We were guided out of New Delhi when the sun was low and the air was fresh. When he silhouette of young boys playing cricket on dewy grass could be seen through the morning fog. The car horns were beginning their daily crescendo, the chai was being boiled. All the Indian hallmarks were delivering as promised. Though we drove for some five hours, not a moment of boredom struck. Past fields of mustard seeds and mango trees we clambered along, sharing the national highway with bull-powered carts, rickshaws, reversing trucks, wild pigs, men selling fresh guava, kids riding bicycles and goats taking their owners for a walk.
A dusty town with curious eyes awaited our arrival. This is where stamping and chiselling and polishing gives birth to the intricate steal caps on our pretty Spell boots. A lot was going on in the workspace, with men busy crafting photo frames, jewellery and other bits and bobs designed for far away lands. Though this artisan work is the skill of masters passed down through generations, its value has not always been appreciated. Before Spell’s NGO comrades commenced work with the group in 2012, the pay was slim and the conditions were dire. Nowadays they receive fair pay and the hazardous conditions of their joint living and working space have been tended to with care. An underground tunnel system even ensures that filed particles of dust are suctioned away from workers, leaving clear air for the families that call this space home.
By linking with impossibly dedicated NGO’s on the ground in India, Spell has been able to offer empowerment and advancement in various forms. Our days in India blurred as we whipped across state borders witnessing scene after scene of grateful employees and artisan handicrafts in the making. Even the simple Spell cotton tags and shopping bags have created numerous opportunities. We visited each stage of these items in the making from the stitching to the block printing, wide-eyed as stories unfolded of prior unemployment and entire families benefiting from a bit of needle and thread.
Back home there is new meaning to the Spell pieces hanging in our wardrobe. We know their past lives, their history, the days they lived before. There’s a sweeter feeling replacing what was once a guilty pleasure.