Mumbai, August 26 Nestled in the heart of India’s buzzing financial capital but still cast adrift, the fishing village of Worli has found a unique way to keep pace with the progress around it. Stepping out of their sheltered lives, women of the village are reaching out to markets worldwide through jewellery created from wood, glass and other materials.
Their products are in demand not only in India but also abroad. Inspiring them to make a mark for themselves is 27-year-old Tarun Thadani, a third generation resident of this settlement.
Thadani, a Business Management graduate from Bryant University in the U.S., initially set up an informal group of village women skilled in making jewellery out of natural elements like wood, glass and porcelain.
Working under the aegis of Worli Village Association, these women create jewellery sold under the brand name Tent.
“We export 50,000 to 500,000 pieces of jewellery every month, depending on the orders,” Thadani revealed.
Although the association was formalized only last year, he said the women have been working informally since 2003.
“I attended the first year of college at Bryant University but the village came calling and I returned. I finished my studies through correspondence,” he added.
Women come to the workshop established at Thadani’s house to get raw materials. The supervisor, Leela Shinde, explains to them the kind of work required and hands over raw materials after making a register entry.
The women then go back home, assign it to other women in the group and deliver the finished product on time.
“On an average, about 60 women come to Thadani House on a regular basis. They reassign it to another group of 20 to 30 women in the neighborhood,” Thadani said.
“Hence, at any given point, we have around 1,500 women producing excellent designs in necklace, bracelets, earrings and anklets,” he said.
“There are 20,000 women in our village who have skills for jewellery making, cooking and stitching. We started off with jewellery making but will slowly venture into food production also,” Thadani said.
For women of the village, the work also means extra household income. “I have been working here for a year now and earn approximately Rs.75 a day,” said Meenakshi Shinde, a village resident.
According to Shinde, the job is convenient for women as they can work from home.
Meanwhile, Thadani is exploring other avenues of employment for the residents of the 600-year-old village.
He has opened a restaurant called Cool Chef Cafe. “The entire staff of the restaurant is from the village. The chef is my elder brother Kaviraj,” Thadani said.
The colonial style cafe, done up in bright, edgy colors with antique furniture, serves a range of cuisines, including oriental and continental dishes.
Worli village is one of the 189 ‘gaonthans’ (indigenous villages) of Mumbai established by Indians. Spread across an area of 72 acres, the village has a population of 100,000.
It stands on a land jutting into the sea. At the end of the village is a small Portuguese fort with remnants of an old armory, soldiers’ barracks and thick ramparts.
The fort, built on the Worli Hill, overlooked the Mahim Bay at a time when the city was made up of just seven islands. It was used as a lookout for enemy ships and pirates. Now, the fort overlooks the Bandra-Worli sealink.