Patchwork azaadi

Updated: Mar 17, 2020, 11:28 IST | Sukanya Datta | Mumbai

Women of Mumbai Bagh have been weaving their ideas of freedom using applique and beads to create a quilt

The quilt has been in the making for over a week
The quilt has been in the making for over a week

Political threats, police pressure, and now, even a virus — the women of Mumbai Bagh have continued to defy all odds to soldier on against the amended citizenship law and the National Register of Citizens. Apart from coming up with songs, posters and poetry, their collective resilience has found new expression: an azaadi quilt. From "khauf se azaadi" (freedom from fear) to "zor se hasne ki azaadi" (freedom to laugh aloud), the patchwork quilt, now around 40-feet long, embodies various definitions of freedom, in Hindi, English, Urdu and Gujarati, that the women have come up with.

One of the embroidered pieces
One of the embroidered pieces

"The protest has been on for 50 days. But from time to time, one question returns to the minds of the women — what next? We wanted to channel this restlessness. We were discussing what we can do and someone said they had heard of the quilt idea from Navi Mumbai artist Indu Harikumar, who we got in touch with," says homeopath and professor Dr Vasika Seliya, who, along with some young girls, formed the group Amplifying Mumbai Bagh which organises activities for the protesters and their children.

One of the embroidered pieces

Around 40 to 50 women, including 70-year-olds and teenagers, have been working on individual scraps of colourful cloth, for over a week. Harikumar, an artist known for her work on body image and modern romance, shares that the idea came to her at a protest in Mumbra. "I was always interested in embroidery," she says, adding that apart from an expression of protest, she wanted the quilt to stand for the idea of azaadi. "All our experiences are so different, and when you take one word, it's amazing to see how different interpretations emerge in meaning, colour and technique," says the artist. The women have used appliqué and beading, apart from different kinds of embroidery, she explains.

Indu Harikumar
Indu Harikumar

The quilting work is an ongoing process. When we ask the artist about her favourite moment, she says, "I was scolding this old woman whose fingers were aching for going on with the stitching, when she smiled and said, 'If a woman resolves to do something, can anything stop her?'"

Seliya says apart from working on the quilt, they also plan to set up an open art gallery at the Nagpada site to display artworks created by the women and their kids.

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