Chasing Indigo: Holding on to a dream?

Asian Paints team met Dinesh Bhai in a village called Bhujodi in Kutch. He is one of the three brothers from a traditional and well known weaving family. While his brothers have taken up weaving, he had a very different call as early as his college days. When he was 19 years old, he heard about the one colour that was not available in natural yarn dyeing- and that was blue. This fascinated him so much that he approached the Khatri community who practiced the Ajrakh craft, as they were renowned for making and using the colour Indigo that yielded blue.

In olden times, the weavers would get their yarns dyed from the Khatri community themselves, bartering it with ghee or milk. But today, with the production requirement and their own demand for Indigo going up, time and effort that Khatris could afford towards yarn dyeing has come down. While blue was easier to attain with synthetic dyes, the market demand was rising for naturally dyed fabric. Weavers had to find their own way to get blue.

Dinesh Bhai still in college set up a pot (an earthen pot or the vat) in an attempt to attain Indigo. As instructed by the Khatris, he added lime and other ingredients. But despite many attempts, he was unsuccessful in making the Indigo blue. Soon after- wards, the Earthquake hit Bhuj in the year 2000 and broke his Indigo pot. He set up a new pot and continued with his experiments. Once he completed college, he finally decided to travel to Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu. There, at The Colours of Nature, a small dyeing workshop in Auroville run by a Spanish dyer named Jesus, he finally picked up an understanding of the concept of Indigo and discovered why it was so difficult to get the colour right. Powered and enthused by this new found knowledge, he set up a vat pot again. But the struggle continued for a couple of years more without getting the colour right. He had reached a point, where the challenge had seeped into his being so much that there was no looking back or letting go. ‘If you fall in love with someone, will you let go?’ he questioned us back when we asked him about his relentless efforts.

Finally, around 2007-08, Shantanu Das, a designer from NID came to his rescue. Shantanu brought with him the knowledge of the vat. NID had already been running an Indigo vat for many years. Together they put up a new vat which finally yielded Dinesh Bhai the colour that had been giving him sleepless nights for years. Today Dinesh Bhai lives and works with his 1.5 years old vat, giving his weaving family, many shades of blue.

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