Although the latter explanation makes the most historically accurate sense, the story of the traveler and poor farmer really resonated with me, and much of the work that is going on in Dakshin Barasat. The main idea that I took away from the story is similar to another popular saying, "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". Rather than just giving money or a gift to the poor farmer for his hospitality, the traveller gives him the greater gift of knowledge that would ensure that this farmer could use his own agency to provide for his family. I believe that the theme of empowerment in the story deeply reflects the ethos of companies like Milaap and local organizations like DCBS. Milaap and DCBS strive to champion the impoverished and marginalized community members of India by giving these deserving people opportunity to utilize their skills at an entrepreneurial level and start a business. It is extremely important that these women are given the agency to carve out at better life for themselves and their families. Ultimately all this boils down to a great line I read on the Milaap website about how "its not giving these people a handout, its about giving them an opportunity".
"a traveller was passing though a small village in Lucknow. The traveller was desperately thirsty and asked a poor farmer for a cup of water. The farmer happily obliged the stranger, who was so impressed by the farmer's hospitality that he taught him the art of chikan. He explained to the farmer that with this skill he and his family would never go hungry again. "The art of chikan embodies the idea of opportunity, and this idea has been engrained into the psyche of the people who practice the art. Opportunity is a strong motivator for passing this skill on through generations. In the book "Embroidering Lives", anthropologist Clare M. Wilkinson-Weber elaborates by observing that:
"shauq (love, interest) and pareshani (troubles, hardship) are used to describe the twin motivations in learning and doing chikan. Shauq is what stimulated the novice to hunger for knowledge [...] On the other hand pareshani lies behind the entry of most embroiderers into the contemporary chikan industry-- the desperate search for money."After meeting with many of these women who do chikan work I was able to get a better understanding of the two motivators of shauq and pareshani. As much as I would like to say that all the women I met with were doing chikan work out of pure shauq, but unfortunatelycrippling poverty in these rural villages has lead to pareshani becoming a stronger motivator for these women to take up the art. Still it is important to note that most of these women were taught the art of chikan by their mothers at a very young age and initially the skill was passed purely out of shauq. According to Wilkinson-Weber many elder embroiders believe that "chikan" is on the decline because pareshani is driving the proliferation of chikan. I personally disagree with this sentiment, and commend these women for being able to take a skill they learned out of shauq as young girls and utilize it to alleviate their pareshani . In this modern world where financial security has become paramount to having a thriving family and providing for them, the entrepreneurial endeavors these women are partaking in have elevated "chikan" to an even more sacred art than it already was.