Are we really what we portray ourselves to be? We are so many different people, all at once. There’s always only a part of ourselves that we give away. Often, it depends on our audience. Who’s to say that the artisans in Kutch weren’t just the same? It’s possible that we heard what they thought we’d want to hear. Or was it them being truthful? Are they wearing the same masks as us?
I wonder about how convenient it is to accept a story as the ultimate truth. Maybe it’s because we see craft and tradition with a conditioned sense of romanticism. Maybe it’s because those telling these stories themselves choose to romanticise their past and present. Maybe we, as a people, need to attach a sense of mysticism and charm to appreciate beauty in things. Fantastical stories are always the hardest to believe, but always those that want to be believed most.
Speaking of tradition, who’s to say that rural tradition is, in fact, what it was generations before? We accept the constant evolution of our customs and traditions, yet feel the need to believe that those of these artisans, involved in a so-called heritage craft, have stayed stagnant in time, and in that sense, retained their true flavour and intent. I also wonder about this need to retain heritage and craft. Is it for us, as consumers, or for themselves and their belief systems that youngsters in the craft community adhere to the same life choices as their predecessors? Or is it just a money game?
Maybe it’s easy to exploit this love for mysticism. I wonder about our psyche as buyers. How is the way an everyday commodity is advertised or marketed any different from the way these people market their products? We like to believe that everything material that we own has some value in the larger sense. Today’s craftspeople are perhaps better judges of our character than we are of theirs. Perhaps they know that we crave an emotional or intellectual substantiation to everything that we consider our own. Maybe it’s so for them too. Which brings me to wonder how rehearsed their stories must be. Maybe they are regular salespersons in borrowed cloaks. Yet, somehow, it’s these cloaks that make us happy. It’s these cloaks that we find easiest to accept. What’s unseen is conveniently left so.
Perhaps we aren’t as different and unique as we’d like to believe. Perhaps our needs and theirs are quite similar. Maybe our problems are different only on a superficial level. Why is it then that they need to believe as much as we do, that we are completely different from one another? Why is it that when we exchange stories, it’s the things that we do differently that we discuss and not the commonality of our realities?
Traditionally, as ‘urban’ Indians, how different are we from these craftspeople? They live in a patriarchal society. As do we. There are exceptions there, as there are here. There is an unquestioned way of retaining customs. It’s true to them, as it is to us. Perhaps it’s the nature of the customs that makes us different. But aren’t these customs only symbolic, and in a sense superficial representations of our beliefs? Maybe our beliefs are more similar than we’d like to believe.
Maybe there’s a greater force in play that makes us this way. Maybe someone benefits financially, emotionally, culturally by spinning tales a certain way. And maybe, the fact that we never really get a clear picture of things is acceptable. Maybe the beauty we see in things is in fact just mysticism.
Maybe this idea of an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ is an illusion.