Purkal is a small village in the hill state of Uttarakhand.
Located on the outskirts of the capital town of Dehra Dun, it is surrounded on all sides by hills dotted with small towns and villages
A modest hand painted sign board guides visitors through a quiet street to the Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti workplace and showroom.
The Ramaswamys began their stay in the village by setting up the Purkal Youth Development Society which runs a school for local children.
The children attending the Purkal Youth Development Society school get ready to mount their bus to school.
G.K.Ramaswamy and his wife Chinny, moved from Mumbai to Uttarakhand and took up a completely unknown vocation of social work after retiring from government service.
The school is clean, bright and serves the families of the embroiderers as well as communities from adjoining villages.
Children at the school get education, uniforms, a mid-morning snack and lunch provided free.
Two students at the Purkal school confer in a private corner.
A simple nourishing lunch is served to the children by school staff.
The class room for younger students is a big and welcoming area for creativity and play.
When children are well-cared for, mothers feel free to give their full attention to doing their patchwork embroidery which is now well acclaimed.
Since an increasing number of women in rural areas across India aspire to earn something extra on their own, they offer their home-taught occupation of embroidery which is generally considered a simple leisure activity.
The talent for anyone assisting such women is to combine their simple existing skills with training, design, quality enhancement and effective marketing.
The women in Purkal said they could embroider and sew. They also possessed sewing machines as these are commonly given to brides in traditional societies as part of their trousseau.
With careful and meticulous training, today, unskilled householders have become masters of their craft. An organization called Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti (Purkal Women’s Power Association) was formed.
Work areas allow women, especially with small children, maximum stress-free informality and comfort.
Workspaces at Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti are both formally and informally arranged according to the work at hand.
Sewing machines are of high quality and allow the users deftness and variety in tailoring.
Groups of embroiderers enjoy the freedom of sitting anywhere in comfort
The interior of the home of a Purkal Stree Shakti embroiderer is a vast improvement over what their living conditions were before they began work at the centre.
The family home of a patchwork embroiderer no longer reflects the earlier underprivileged status of its occupants.
Purkal streets where the women and their families live are clean and quiet. They demonstrate how opportunities for better earnings empowers the entire community.
Chinny Ramaswamy, with a stark white hair, and her group of women from Purkal village in Uttarakhand hold up a masterpiece of hand embroidery and patchwork.
They are the core of the Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti that emerged after the school was established.
Text: Jaya Jaitly and Charu Verma
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri, Charu Verma
Artisans: Purkal Stree Shakti
Ground Facilitator: Charu Verma
Documentary Video: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Curation: Ruchira Verma