Saturday, May 7, 2011

An exercise in Relativity

Clumps of green play hide and seek with the white marble and red stone of the Humayun's Tomb as I set off from Delhi to Panipat, where the looming, dusty, blaring, peaceful, communal factories of Rugs by Raj. It takes me a moment to realize that the green and the stone are as they always were; it was me, instead, that was moving. And this sense of displacement--and re-placement--continues through the day. 


I'm walking--floating--through rows of men--gluing, cutting, cleaning, stitching, packing, counting, listing--and stacks and stacks of rugs--made from wool and cotton and plastic and an array of waste material: this is the finishing room. 

Floating in raw material
Something of the posters of gods and goddesses, the play of color, then the white packaging shroud that conceals the long, labored task of creating a single rug, strikes me as intensely philosophical, as the seed, the bloom, the end, and a re-creation.

I am simultaneously in myself and hovering above, realizing the distance, physical and spiritual, between those that create and those that utilize.

Hand tools made by the workers at the factory
The handmade glue, the storage of the glue in the wedge of a brick, the solidification of a handful of latex to create and eraser, the course sticks of a broom to remove extra lint, the metal creation of a flattening device, the brightly colored sari-ed women sitting amongst ceiling high piles of white yarn--like an aurora borealis in the morning: All these homemade, everyday innovations are particular to India and are interwoven into the framework of the rug. 
Brooming away the extra lint
Innovative ways to remove excess lint

The factory is like a giant human body: A brain sends messages to heart, which pumps blood through its vessels, distributed through organs, permeating each tissue, bringing alive every cell. 

Strumming music to the ears
I return to the comfort of the main office, the music of the radio and the music of the tools reverberating in my ears. I take my slippers off and the fibres tease and caress the undersides of my feet. I return, in a reverie, to the fields of sheep that leant the heaps of wool, to the women who sifted through it, sheep dust flying in the air, to the men who placed it machine after machine, until it turned the thin, rich fibre that sunk into the soapy water, that revolved on the spinning wheel, to the man in the white lab coat that dyed it multiple times, that pierced the canvas of a rug, and finally formed a pattern. A pattern that existed not only in form, color and theme, but in the hidden world of music, improvisation, and the blessings of Indian gods and goddesses. A pattern that is lain on your floor, your own story accumulating into someone else's, far away, and on your fingertips. 

Text and images by Wooly Eyes.

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