Leah and Annie of Stones That Rock travel to Rajasthan’s renowned “Pink City”, Jaipur, to explore its markets, sights and silversmiths – and also to an NGO with whom they’ve recently started collaborating.
Why did you decide to visit India?
Early in 2014, we began to work with Ladli, I-India’s vocational training centre, on the design and production of a fundraising necklace for the Singapore Committee for UN Women. The success of the necklace and the relationship we were developing with the team at Ladli inspired us to want to go and visit so as to better understand what they were all about and what they were capable of producing.
All of our production, with the exception of the pieces made for us at Ladli, is done in Shanghai. For this reason, we were curious to explore the workmanship, techniques and materials available in India. And for stones and jewellery production, there is no better place than Jaipur. It all seemed like perfect timing and the perfect excuse to visit.
Both of us had been to India before and travelled quite extensively, but neither of us had been to Jaipur. This made it even more exciting.
Tell us about the trip.
Our visit to Ladli was totally uplifting and inspirational. The centre has a very joyous feel; from the second we arrived there we felt welcome and comfortable. The light-hearted, fun atmosphere belies the serious commitment there is to the education, training and nurturing of the girls and young women under their care.
We couldn’t believe the level of industriousness going on in all parts of Ladli, once the business of school and pastoral care had been addressed each day. Around the complex there were people involved in embroidery and handicrafts, painting, card-making, jewellery-making and cooking.
What were some of the things you did?
Each day we sat with the master jeweller and a large team of young women who patiently made up samples for us and shared ideas and techniques. Communication was not always easy, but the commitment for us all to understand one another was never in question. At night, Mr Soni the jeweller would take us to visit the markets in search of stones, silver and decorative items to add to the designs.
We were fortunate to be taken to visit the Ladli vocational centre for boys and young men, where they focus on sewing craft; once again we were impressed with the level of professionalism and care. A visit to one of the boys’ shelter homes makes it clear just how little these children have.
Our hosts also took us to one of the communities that Ladli supports by providing food and education. Everything was so orderly and calm, and the atmosphere warm, welcoming and safe.
Every aspect of the trip was fantastic. We loved our time with Ladli, but we were also charmed by Jaipur; the colour, the buzz and the incredible architecture and artistry – in particular, the forts. We had one day to sightsee, and we were blown away!
Biggest challenge of the trip?
Not having enough time. We would have loved to spend days exploring the markets and jewellery factories that are everywhere in Jaipur. We would have loved time to sit for longer with the girls as they made up samples and showed us their ideas. We would also have loved to have had more time to talk to them, to learn more about them and to hear their stories and their plans and hopes for the future.
Most rewarding experience?
That was definitely working with the girls and young women to create two new collections. The first is the 2015 UN Fundraiser necklace, the Seema Lariat, which launched on 8 March to coincide with International Women’s Day. The second was creating a limited-edition, nine-piece collection that celebrates the delicate workmanship and stones of Jaipur.
Most surprising sight?
After driving through Jaipur’s crowded, noisy, polluted streets, we didn’t expect to then walk into Ladli and discover an absolute oasis of calm, order and joy. This was a most wonderful surprise!
Leah and Annie’s tips for travelling to Jaipur
• November is a perfect time to visit; it has warm, dry days and cooler nights.
• Hire a reliable driver.
• Wear slip-on footwear as it needs to be removed everywhere you go. Shoes also have a hard time in the dry, sandy conditions (it’s a desert city, after all).
• Be prepared to conduct a lot of business and shopping sitting cross-legged on the floor, drinking chai.
• Buy a copy of Love Jaipur, Rajasthan, Fiona Caulfield (lovetravelguides.com)
On the advice of Singapore-based Ladli volunteers, we stayed at Umaid Mahal. It was central, in a quiet location, with comfortable rooms, a great rooftop restaurant and reasonable rates. Try to avoid ground-floor rooms
Restaurants and Bars
Umaid Mahal rooftop
The Peacock Rooftop Restaurant, Hotel Pearl Palace
Forresta Kitchen & Bar
Rambagh Palace – Polo Bar
Bar Palladio (Italian),
Narain Niwas Palace Hotel
Markets and Bazaars
This story first appeared in Expat Living’s July 2015 issue.
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