Happiness Happens

Name: Pramila Krishna
Age: 27
Hometown: Kukuma, Gujarat
Occupation: Seamstress

You know those people who can instantly brighten your day with their smile alone?  They are a special kind of people, ones to be cherished, and I am lucky enough to have befriended a few while here in Bhuj.

Pramila is the first person I greet at work, every morning.  I go into her sewing studio to say hello, she shows me the bags she is making for Khamir and the clothing she is making for her children.  She hates my hair- every morning she styles it in an up do, makes sure I am wearing earrings (if I’m not she gives me the ones out of her ears), and tells me that now I am beautiful.  We teach each other phrases in Kachchi and English and then promise to save each other seats at the table for afternoon chai. Before I leave she gives me a hug, one of those hugs that builds you up, makes you feel whole.

Today is my last day of work.  I have saved up enough money for my son’s school tuition and to get through the festivals.  I love Khamir, I love my work, I love my friends here, but I love my home more.  When I am at work my head is always with my family.  When we need money in two months I might come back here, or I might continue my work at home.  

Will you come to my home? My days will be empty without fixing your hair.  You have become my best friend.  Bring me to your wedding.  I’ll make sure you look nice…I’ll be missing you every day. 

 

Pramilaben at her work station
Pramilaben at her work station

 

Pramila’s last day of work was the Saturday before Diwali celebrations.  She said she had all the money she needed right now, her children’s school tuition is paid and her family has money for the festival season, so she can now spend time with her children at home.  Her husband is a painter—he paints houses, temples, whatever needs painting—and he can support them.  Before she leaves she promises she will come back to visit me.

When I first met Pramila we spoke in Hindi.  After our broken introductions and quick hair ‘fixing’ we went back to work.

 

Aapse milkar kushi hui

 

In Hindi that phrase is used to express something similar to ‘nice to meet you’.  Literally translated it means after meeting you happiness happened to me.

My second month in India has been trying, an up hill battle, but at the end of the day when I’m unwinding at home I repeat that phrase in my head.  When I find myself confused with the language barrier, frustrated with the lack of agency I have here as a woman, or angry with myself for choosing inaction, invisibility, in day-to-day situations, I repeat that phrase.

Happiness Happens

Happiness happens in India

Happiness is everywhere in India

Happiness is the smiles between my coworkers when we run out of words to say to each other but still want our friendship to continue growing

Happiness is the laughter of the children as they ride on their mother’s lap on her motorcycle, waving to me as I walk through town

Happiness is the strength to remove my invisibility cloak and use my voice when I feel I am being treated as less than because I am a woman

Happiness is the camaraderie that forms when a voice is able to unite a community of strong women and allied men to fight gender oppression

Happiness is the knowledge that the weird brown liquid I stepped in is just chai

Good things, bad things- stuff happens.  People like Pramila, people who light up the room with their very presence, they are the ones who remind me that through it all happiness happens.

 

And of course my shameless plugin: check out this awesome trailer brought to you by the Khamir exhibition team!  We are so excited to announce our exhibition opening and to share with everyone the life and craft of Kachchhi potters.  So hurry up and book your tickets to Bhuj for Ghadai, showing from January 17th until March 31st 2015

Highlights: Virginia recently graduated from Tulane University where she completed degrees in Public Health, International Development, and Gender & Sexuality Studies. For the past four years, Virginia has been very passionate about work with New Orleans public health involving sex education, reproductive health, and proper nutrition. She was a sex education teacher, a youth mentor, and a global justice intern with a free health clinic where she helped start a farmer's market and led a weekly women's wellness class. She spent her junior year abroad in India living in Delhi and Dharamsala conducting fieldwork on the reproductive health care status of Tibetan refugees.

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