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July 2012
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Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – February 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

We’re pleased to bring you another update as we catch up with what has been happening with The Strengths Project in Kolkata, India. This update is from earlier this year – February to be precise – and over the coming weeks we will catch up with updates to the current day. Here is what Avirupa has to report from February:

 

“It’s springtime in Calcutta. Though winters are quite pleasant in this part of the world, yet Bengalis are forever hostile towards any reading of the mercury below 23 degree Celsius. So once “Poush Shankranti” marks the official beginning of spring, the mood is of relief and joy. According to the Bengali calendar poush is the last month of winter, and shonkranti i.e. the last day of the month is auspicious.

 

Traditionally the day is celebrated by “nabanna” festival, to observe thankfulness for the harvest of new crop (chiefly rice). Delectable rice based special deserts of the season called “pithe” are made in every home, quality and quantity varies depending on economic condition of the family. So when I showed up in Shiriti on 16th February, the day after “Poush Shankranti” for our Thursday meeting, I was treated with a bowl of puli pithe, prepared by Mousumi.

 

On that sweet note we started our assembly, with the agenda to itemize, catalogue and decide on the price of all the items of clothing produced by the group till date. The clothes were in possession of different people, some of whom have left the group since, so the first task was to collate all the items. We looked up our register to identify the people and every member took it upon herself to get the materials from each one of the absent people.

 

The next week we had almost all the items in hand. But the condition of the lot was deplorable. Most were dirty,  some were moth eaten, and stained, due to lack of proper storage facility. So Mousumi, Sharmila and Shyama divided the lot among them and took home for washing and ironing. In the light of this problem, we decided to buy a trunk, and packs of cheap insecticide to keep all the materials together. The money for the trunk was to be provided by our group fund. 

 

In subsequent meetings we then made the following list:

Shirt (boys) 4 pcs.

Shirt (girls) 7 pcs.

Short kameez (girls) 6 pcs.

Baby pant suit 11 pcs.

Petticoat (white) 7 pcs.

Petticoat (colored) 7 pcs.

 

While we were making the list, a few local women dropped by, and offered to buy items. The demand for petticoat seems to be quite high, followed by baby clothes. Many of our members also were keen to buy our own products, esp. petticoats.

 

When we sat down to decide on the price, a couple of issues came up. The women were frank about the poor quality of cut and fit of their product, as they were made when they were students. The fabrics were donated by CAPP and Robert, so cost of production is very low. Based on that logic, we decided to keep the price of individual items lower than the market value of similar products. Another bright idea suggested by Tushi, was to offer a discount on the less popular items, to attract consumer. Thus price was fixed at:

 

Shirt (boys) 4 pcs @ Rs. 50/ pc. Less discount 20% Final price: Rs. 40 per pc.

Shirt (girls) 7 pcs. @ Rs. 40/ pc. Less discount 25% Final price: Rs. 30 per pc.

Short kameez (girls) 6 pcs. @ Rs. 100/ pc. Less discount 30% Final price: Rs. 70 per pc.

Baby pant suit 11 pcs @ Rs. 30/ pc.

Petticoat (white) 7 pcs @ Rs. 100/ pc. Less discount 10% (only for stained pieces) Final price: Rs. 90/ pc.

Petticoat (colored) 7 pcs @ Rs. 100/ pc.

 

A surprise awaited us on the last meeting of the month of February. On that Thursday, Mou, our one time active member joined us again. She is now married, and pregnant, and had come to visit her mother. We had a fun time with her, the other women joked and teased her, and she was chirpy and lively like before. She brought with her the clothes that were in her possession.

 

She said as soon as she heard that we were collecting the items, she on her own came to submit the stuff which she couldn’t return due to her hasty marriage. She rued the fact that she cannot attend our Thursday meetings as her “in-laws” house is at a different part of town. However she promised to drop by as and when she visits her mother. Once she departed, the group planned to gift one of the baby clothes for her child.

 

Thus we ended February with hopeful plans for March.”

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