Sitting on the express train as it speeds across the desert on its journey back to Delhi, we reflect upon an epic 3 month adventure in our amazing India. It is still a country of incredible extremes. Devastating poverty somehow melds with vast wealth. The peace and tranquillity found in the rural countryside meets with a blaring hubbub in the big polluted cities. The snow and ice of the Himalayan foothills border deserts which descend over hundreds of miles towards palm fringed beaches and blazing sunshine. Oh yes, India has it all! This vast subcontinent and the nearby countries that surround it, as our fellow travellers tell us with great joy, are lands of vibrancy and colour, sights, sounds, smells (both mouth watering and then nauseating), music and laughter; weddings, funerals, festivals, Gods and Goddesses, not to mention a plethora of flora and fauna. Believe me when I tell you, it will never cease to amaze and enthral. To watch from a bus window as a monkey trots by on the back of a hog as if it were a jockey riding a horse, does not appear in the least bit strange to tired eyes, just as the sight of a brightly painted Indian elephant clumping across a bustling city intersection, its huge back laden with goods for market would not draw much attention from passers by. Phew! And they are just the fragments that I have recounted in the few minutes it has taken me to scribble down my thoughts.
A brightly painted Indian Elephant with rider.
Enough about that though! Believe it or not, we are here each year first and foremost to visit our fair trade tailors who help us to come up with new, original designs for our website and festival stall, and as you can probably tell it is an amazing place to be able to complete this task. When we first visited in 2012 we saw all of the things I have just described, and more. We were properly travelling back then, both Nellie and I each living on 500 rupees a day (roughly £5) for food, travel, accommodation and the occasional beer if the regional laws allowed. Usually they didn’t but, “Sab Kutch Milega,” as we were later told roughly translated to, “anything is possible”, helped us out when a cheeky pick me up was required. (This is a universal phrase you will hear all over India, a country that has 22 official languages and hundreds more regional dialects. It can be very useful when bargaining and haggling, as it will always bring a laugh and a smile from the seller (wallah) you are attempting to converse with, so use it wisely my friends)
Indian bank notes depicting some of the various official languages of India.
We knew throughout that first experience of this unique and contrasting land, it was somewhere that would draw us back whether we liked it or not, so after a lot of discussion between ourselves we began speaking with the very same wallahs we had been attempting (poorly at that stage) to get the best deal from on a new t shirt or mirrored purse, only this time with a burgeoning idea buzzing around in our heads.
Our old converted riot van next to a lake somewhere in central Spain (2011).
For as long as our jobs would possibly allow, our summer breaks from university had previously been spent driving our old converted police riot van (aptly named the Riot Fairy by our friends) to various European countries and festivals giving us the opportunity to take in their incredible markets. Nellie had also starting creating the first items of clothing we ever made, to sell on fly pitches or blanket market stalls that we set up along our way, so with a view to mass (well sort of) producing some designs that we had been working on for fun, we tried our luck and gambled big. It was a massive decision as it meant that we would be using the rest of the money we had meticulously saved whilst balancing full time jobs and university with a view to spending years away, but the thought of going back to the 9 to 5 grind spurred us on. Little did we know that it would be a long hard road that lay ahead, with its shared box bedrooms crammed full of us and our stock, the second jobs, the long hours, the sleepless nights, the missed weekends and the lessons we would need to learn (we always call mistakes lessons unless we make them twice) but, tadaah!!!!! It was all worth it in the end because I find myself on this train writing away
An Indian Express train heading in to the mountains.
6 years have now passed and our business has progressed, but we still work with many of our original tailors and suppliers who we can now thankfully call our friends. We have seen their progression too. New houses and workshops with battery banks to deal with the numerous power cuts have been built and better sewing machines have been purchased. This in turn has provided new jobs and a good wage for countless people up and down the supply chain, most of whom are still incredibly poor by Western standards. From the cotton pickers in the fields, to the men and women spinning the raw material into fabric, the couriers who ship the finished products, to the tailors and seamstresses (this is not a wholly male dominated profession) who create the garments that we stock in our shops, they and their families have all benefited. We are particularly careful to visit the places where our garments are being produced and meet many of the people I have just mentioned in person. Because of this close working relationship we can guarantee that everyone we have the pleasure of working alongside are of working age, are paid a FAIR wage and get decent length, regular breaks (these are usually at the most frustrating times when we ourselves are most busy, so I can certainly vouch for that, but this is INDIA and we love it!!!)
Some of our tailors busy at work.
As we near Delhi and I reach the end of this chapter of our story, all I feel is gratitude for the life we have been given. The light has now faded outside but from the open doorway of our carriage it is still possible to see the very same stars that we reached for when Wobble and Squeak was born. Live, love, laugh and most importantly, be happy with what you do and trust your heart to direct your life. If you don’t like something, change it, as you and only you have the power to do so. Travel far, dream big and sunshine adventures await you. We did and implore you to do the same!!!
Please check out our summer collection coming soon. Much love Wobblers.xxxxx