Sabala: End of Week One

It’s a little difficult to know what to expect for the remainder of my internship having completed the first week. I have spent the week not having a clue about what I’m supposed to be doing. This experience for me is to learn something new, and yet I am being left alone to just “create twelve products” as though I’m supposed to know what I’m doing. Textile design is a completely new field for me, and I truly expected to receive some help, especially when I was promised in the contract from WFTO that I would receive “regular consultation, advice and guidance”and “necessary orientation, workshop, or training to ensure that [I am] given adequate information to assist [me] in performing [my] duties”.

The CEO of Sabala was called away the week that I arrived, and so appointed her daughter, Teju to assist and supervise me until her return. As I mentioned in my First Day At Sabala, she arrived five hours after initially arranging to meet me at the craft centre, and when she did, admitted to not knowing what I was supposed to be doing, except that I had to create twelve products. I spent no more than half an hour with her and then she left. Not wanting to waste my own time, I browsed some of the wonderful fabrics and products made by the amazing women at the craft centre. At 5pm Pranesh took me home on his motorbike, though not before stopping by the showroom on MG Road / Station Road.

On my second morning, I was again told I’d be picked up at 9.45am, so at 10.20 when noone had turned up, I text someone to confirm the arrangement and got the distinct impression they had forgotten about it. I finally got to work at 11. Again, Teju arranged to meet me at 10.00, but didn’t turn up herself until 2pm and only stayed 20 minutes. Nevertheless, I spent Tuesday and Wednesday researching Indian trends, consumers, fabrics, etc – the process I had followed in various design modules at university. I spent hours looking at Sabala’s products, studying Banjara stitch, I made a fabric swatch chart, and story boards experimenting with fabric combinations.

When I wasn’t researching and browsing, I enjoyed getting to know some of the women working on the production unit. They’re all so lovely and were really interested in who I was, but unfortunately my lack of Hindi language combined with their limited, broken English made communication difficult.

As a total beginner in garment design, despite what my degree title may say, I have absolutely no knowledge in the field. Therefore, I found it a little difficult understanding the process with no assistance, and just did not know where to begin. With a few ideas drawn out, it was a little difficult to explain to the non-English speaking pattern cutter what it was that I was asking for. I didn’t know anything about fabric measurements, panels, etc. and really thought that I’d be shown the process from design to production at least once before being told to create something. Perhaps Teju could have designed a garment with me and let me see the development to finished article.

When I showed her some ideas that I had come up with and instead of offering any feedback I was just asked “why” I had come up with these ideas. As a newbie in the field, I had hoped that she could have given me some constructive criticism, told me where I’m going wrong or right… sadly not.

By Wednesday afternoon, my frustration was getting the better of me. Having made such an effort to get down to Bijapur all the way from Rajasthan (it’s not close that’s for sure!) I was really eager to learn something – anything – about the fair trade industry, the materials they use, their suppliers/buyers… After three days, I was upset that I had barely seen anyone (Teju didn’t even come in today), received no help and given no real information about this task and my progress.

The rest of my week continued with this frustration, feeling like a burden as though people have better things to do and other places to be than at the office dealing with an intern, which I resent considering my efforts and my time. Perhaps I should have been asked to postpone my placement by a week – at least until Mallamma returned – but this wasn’t suggested and especially with all the false-promise meeting arrangements, I was annoyed.

My patience almost reached its peak when Teju told me she’d meet me at 10o’clock on Saturday – my day off – to get Tanaji, the pattern cutter, to at least cut my fabrics. I arrived on time only to discover (over an hour later when she finally decided to answer my call) that she wasn’t coming in. A simple text before I left the house would have sufficed, though I assume she doesn’t have that respect for me.

After a further half hour wait, Pranesh came up to translate what I wanted, to Tanaji, and I was promised that it would be cut and stitched by Monday. One thing I’m learning here is not to trust any promises.

Admittedly, I have considered leaving Bijapur as I am questioning how worthwhile this experience is going to be. Saturday really infuriated me and to return on Monday morning to see my fabric untouched left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. However, not one to give up on something easily, I expected that Mallamma’s return would improve the situation and I decided to give it another week.

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