Lola Makower

Lower Hutt, New Zealand

“I knew that I would fall in love with India but did not expect to feel the same on the topic of the tour …”

I have had a dream to visit India the whole of my life well at least since I reached into double figures.

I just never got around to it and the vastness of this subcontinent, with thoughts of “where do I start with this dream” always stopped me in my tracks until this year. I had never considered joining a tour.

I was very kindly invited to take a look at Joji Jacob’s “Threads of Tradition” tour of Northern India, by a friend. I had never imagined travelling to India on a tour tracking master artisans at work, creating the best of their traditional textile industry. In fact, although I have always loved quality cloth, I have never really put my mind to understanding at any length how it is produced.

My main enthusiasm for going on this tour was that firstly it was to India and secondly whatever its theme, it would allow me to follow my passion in photographing all the colour and vitality of this diverse and vast country.

I knew that I would fall in love with India but did not expect to feel the same on the topic of the tour.

This topic took us off the beaten track away from tourist areas and into small villages and townships, private homes and a run-down old palace visiting these master artisans at their work, spinning, dying, weaving and embroidering natural cloth in ways that have been theirs forever. It offered our little tour number of six ladies the chance to meet them and wonder at their skills and see the traditional looms at work both table and pit types: watch them dye the spun cloth in vats particularly of Indigo and be able to ask them questions and be better informed on leaving than I was on arriving. I was with each new encounter enriched by the warmth and smiles of the people I met. We were mostly the only Europeans visible, but I, for one, never felt out of place.

We were based in Ahmedabad, Delhi, Lucknow and Kolkata but spent most of our time outside these centres travelling by van to villages. This made us appreciate the difficulties in travelling through the vastness of India and the opportunity it offered us to witness life in rural areas.

Having said that I loved our visits to the cities, particularly to Kolkata and was sorry not to have spent more time here. I was particularly touched being the only British member of our group with our visit to the “Residency” in Lucknow; a very sobering experience for me.

I must just add that in some places we were accompanied by a local guide as in Lucknow, and the level of their imparted knowledge was fabulous.

In the cities, we visited the local markets, which added a further dimension to our experience in India.

I must just comment on the food!

I have always loved curried food but often felt in the west that the portions served in restaurants is excessive to my personal needs. On this trip, we enjoyed small portions of different dishes with differing spices and levels of heat. My taste buds were exposed to such delightful fragrances that I wish I could have been born Indian. Our guide and Friend Joji, was always there to advise us on what it was we were eating or about to choose.

In fact, Joji was the backbone of this tour his gentle and polite ways were observed every day as he greeted the people we were meeting, the way he dealt with minor hitches during the day and his patience! Shani and his philosophy to support local communities so as to help them to retain their livelihood and to sustain their way of life were at the forefront of this tour.
We understood that all the accommodation we stayed in was chosen specifically because of expressed credentials for sustainability. I found the accommodation far above the standard I had expected and
very comfortable.

One of the factors that made this tour so very special for me was witnessing Joji’s love for India and the importance he felt towards helping to maintain traditionally produced textiles.

His often demonstrated his passion for all the Artisans to have a successful future.

It was a sad farewell to the group as we saw them off in Kolkata on their way home. Judith and I had a few more days added onto the trip with a journey by train to Varanasi. This additional trip was organized by Joji and his team in India and again was managed with great efficiency.

I returned home with many items of cloth, woven with so many happy memories of India, the places we visited, the people I met and blessed with the smiles I always had returned from them, in the country where I know I have left a little bit of myself.

My camera and I are truly grateful to the company “All Things Intriguing” to Joji and Shani and their team in India for the trojan work they put into making this trip the full experience it was for me. I cannot wait to get back there and would not hesitate to ask Joji and his team to design future trips for me India.

Lola Makower

Lower Hutt, New Zealand

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