By Medhavi Gandhi:
When I was leaving school, my principal had written in my diary, “You will take the road less travelled and it will make all theÂ difference”. Back then, I was moved to read that line written by her — a line from one of my favourite poems. Today, I understand theÂ essence and significance of those words.
The road less travelled is intriguing, exciting, adventurous, and scary. While there are new discoveries, there is also a ruthless sort of restlessness that pushes you to go on. That is the source of my energy. There is comfort in simplicity and gratefulness for life.Â I haveÂ always listened to my heart. Most of the times it guided me right, and some few odd times, it put me in the most difficult of situations.Â The decision to start Happy Hands too, was led by the heart, and in five years, I have faced all varieties of situations — difficult,Â humbling, and most importantly, inspiring.
I started at a time when efforts for reviving crafts was not an advisable (read lucrative) career option, and had little to do withÂ Management- my field of study. With no formal education in Design, I felt myself drawn to the beauty and sheer magic of handcraftingÂ a product. The first question most friends would ask me would be: “…but how will you do it…” I did not know the answer then, and I do not know it now.
There was no ‘plan A or B or C’ — there was only a conviction, and the determination to change. Friends came forward to help, and I continued to meet people who are our biggest support systems now. Fundraising was the biggest problem — how would we pay people, rentals…etc. but our artists understood it all too well. They were our initial supporters — we would make products together, and sell them together.
None of this was easy — while new relationships were formed, existing ones were put to test. The one thing about being an entrepreneur is, you realise who your true friends really are — the ones who share the happiness of success are few in number, the ones whoÂ understand the risk of failure, even fewer.
There are several choices one is constantly faced with, but being a woman makes it easier — we are naturally inclined towardsÂ multitasking. In the course of running an organisation, I have learnt how to budget, recruit, design, travel on minimal resources, and how to function with no sleep, but occasional dreams. By most importantly, I have learnt about people and their traditions or cultures; I have learnt patience, and I have grown — not just as an entrepreneur but as a human being. It’s not crafts that I work to restore — I work to bring back the dignity in the life of a craftsman/artist. I seek to enable our own countrymen to recognise and include the traditional arts of our nation into their lives, so craft can thrive again — so artists can feel ‘wanted’ again.
Time has played a strange game of sorts. While we have moved on to better technology, infrastructure and opportunities, our villages (most of them) remain without any proper access to Internet services even!
Today we have a larger team, and our programs and impact have only increased over the years. We have always been an all-girlsÂ organisation. Not by plan, of course! We learnt to lift our own cartons, and manage our logistics. Yes, our parents have stayed up nights waiting for us, but we ourselves were never concerned about our safety. Somehow, work always came first.Â It is the small experiences which have made us who we are — we continue to struggle, laugh at our mistakes, and then make some more.
Today, in retrospect, I am thankful to the people who supported us, and also to those who didn’t because they taught us some very important lessons. The struggle continues, as does the madness — and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!