43rd day. This post will be shorter than usual. The reason? We are leaving for northern India to discover new places dedicated to the embroidery world and, as always, the suitcase is far from ready! Before leaving, though, I have the pleasure/duty to continue our travelogue and keep you updated on what I’ve found out these last two weeks.
We left off talking about the implications that religion has on the work flow and how that impacts the lives of embroiderers and their meeting spots. Implications that have created real neighborhoods dedicated to embroidery. It is even said that in certain areas of Mumbai, one door out of every two hides and embroidery business. But the idea that the city is divided into “thematic areas” based on the type of activities you may find holds true at all levels. Going around the city, in fact, you can find a multitude of neighborhoods specialized in something. From bags, to metals, to furniture. Among these there’s the neighborhood (actually, the neighborhoods) dedicated to embroidery materials.
Last week I took the whole day to go and visit one of them a little more closely. Seeking, of course, something specific but without precluding the possibility of browsing the shops to immerse myself as much as possible in a fascinating world. What came out is that, looking for something specific in the market, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. The neighborhood certainly did not develop following a precise logic and the shops are scattered everywhere. Everything on the street level allows a neophyte to be able to understand the nature of the store with a simple glance at the shop window (if there is one) but, when the shops go into the basements or climb the upper floors, the research becomes much more difficult. And this is where the importance of social relationships comes handy, where word of mouth allows you to go from shop to shop discovering places that would have otherwise been kept hidden.
In doing so, I went into narrow lanes that required the alternating one-way (not for cars, but for pedestrians) and I climbed on unstable stools to be able to see the beads I was looking (and, obviously, they were crammed on the top shelf of the store). If there is something I have learned in these weeks, it is that space in Mumbai is precious and the materials market could not be immune from the logic of optimizing the space that exists in the city. And that’s why I saw shops overflowing with crystals, stones, sequins and beads; stones that seem to constantly explode. But, as always happens in this city, everything finds its place maintaining a precarious balance in which, in the end, everything fits perfectly.