Politician and founder-president of Dastkari Haat Samiti, Jaya Jaitly recently held the 32nd Annual Dastkari Haat Craft Bazaar in Delhi. Jaitly founded the Samiti about four decades ago in 1986 and has been working to improve the lives of Indian artisans and craftspeople through the years.
“I have always been attracted to the art and aesthetics of the different crafts and I am also a strong social activist so it was only by setting up Dastkari where I could combine both perfectly,” she tells SheThePeople.TV. ”Dastkari is an organisation where I help artisans in bringing out the beauty of their craft and inspire them to do some new things. So for me it’s not about been a commercial enterprise but a purely social work. To combine social work with some artistic activity to bring happiness to the artisan’s lives is what this is all about.”
Jaitly told us that she gets immense satisfication when people tell her that they feel so happy coming to Dilli Haat, one of the places Jaitly looks after, as there is a feeling of festivity here. “I like that both the customers and the makers of the crafts are happy.”
Talking about the challenges that she goes through in keeping Dilli Haat and Dastkari moving smoothly, she tells us that it is a never-ending process. “Keeping Dilli Haat going in the way it is and the way it’s become so successful now, it is tough to ask traders to leave after their term gets over here. It’s hard to keep the rotation of artisans going. Then the onlookers and the customers throw waste all over the place that’s another problem.”
Jaitly grew up in a liberal family from Kerala so she says that it was never a problem for her to choose an individual path even four decades back.
“I got lots of freedom in my early life. But that does not mean I don’t love my culture…I love it — that’s why I like wear a Saree and a bindi and yet have an open outlook towards the world. I come from South but I believe the North is not so easy for women.”
“Particularly in my 30 years of politics, being a woman has not been easy. People think that women are easy targets. But to speak out and standing against all who think so without having a godfather or anything is tough but I always have had a strong mind and that’s what conquers all.”
Talking about women artisans that she has met over the years and the transformation she has seen in them, she articulated earlier women used to be very shy but now they are coming up with much more force. “Opportunities are there for them, what we have to do is not put obstacles in their paths. They need to feel the freedom to go out there and sell their products.”
This year, she plans to promote skill building and generating income through it. “I am doing projects which require artisans to learn new skills. Now we are moving forward from just product making and selling but going into newer arenas like decorating interiors of airports. One of the specific products is decorating the rickshaws of Benaras, for which artisans who paint on wood are being trained to do this.”