It’s 4 pm and already 6 degrees Celsius. The sun is still out but its warmth can barely be felt. Men and women grip their cups of tea to find comfort in the hot steel glass, their shawls wrapped a little tighter to keep out the cold mountain breeze. Fires are prepared to be lit and the pace of work slows down. Winter in the Himalayas feels like a winter in the northern hemisphere. The cold hits your face. Fingers go numb without gloves and everyone is happier when the sun shines.
Even in the cold Himalayan winter, their day in the village of Bareth begins long before dawn for silk spinners Surma and Sangeeta. While the rest of the house is still asleep, enveloped in darkness and mist, they head out to feed their cattle. The sisters-in-law work together silently in freezing temperatures until everyone awakes to the aroma of breakfast, typically hot roti (Indian flatbread) and subzi (seasonal vegetables), being made. For Surma and Sangeeta, their day has only just begun.
From December until February, people go through their daily chores each winter in the Himalayan mountain villages without any central heating. The elements you brave outside are the very elements you would have to survive indoors. A heated workplace is an unthinkable luxury, as is hot water running from the tap. The best way to stay warm is to remain as active as possible and, of course, layer!
Winters arrive and our artisans bundle themselves in knitted caps, scarves, sweaters, gloves and thick socks, ready to work shorter days. In addition to spinning, dyeing, weaving, finishing and tagging, their daily household chores of tending land, feeding cattle and cooking must be completed with the same efficiency as in summer, but keeping in mind the shorter days.
As another winter sets in, we as a partner in this journey of co-creation seek a little bit of comfort for our artisans. For an entire month until Christmas, KARIGAR will contribute €5 (or Rs 350) from every purchase made by you towards thermal wear (a set of warm inner wear costs approximately Rs 900) for our skilled and inspiring craftspeople. We work closely with 50 artisans and for the next 30 days, our goal is to add some warmth to their cold winters.
Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Photo credit: Marloes van Doorn