Through Sheer Determination, She Gave The Colour Of Reality To Her Dreams

She realized her dreams, and of many more women, because she defied the village elders.

This was rural India.

Amidst the verdant fields and bustling village life, nineteen-year-old Sunita craved something more than farming, housekeeping, and harvesting crops.

Sunita’s hands painted magic onto fabric. Her saris were not just garments; they were tapestries of tradition, dyed in vibrant colors and painted with the dreams of generations. She was a Madhubani painting artist. The world knows this type of painting also as Mithila painting.

Madhubani art is steeped in tradition, culture, and history

Traditionally, Mithila painting was created by women, characterized by bold, geometric patterns and a vivid color palette, primarily using natural dyes. The themes often depicted Hindu deities, natural elements, and scenes from royal courts, reflecting a deep connection with local culture and spirituality. What makes Madhubani unique is its meticulous detailing, achieved using fingers, twigs, and brushes, symbolizing an artistic harmony between simplicity and complexity. Initially, Sunita painted on mud walls and floors of her home and others’ as a hobby.

Soon Sunita’s art transitioned to canvas and paper, in a hope to gain acclaim in nearby villages and cities of Darbhanga. For Sunita, Madhubani painting was not just an art form; it was a cultural narrative that empowered her and preserved her rich heritage.

A form of expression for women

Sunita had learned the art of Madhubani painting from her mother, who in turn had learned from hers. It was a skill passed down through generations, a legacy of beauty and resilience. But Sunita was not content with just continuing the tradition; she wanted to revolutionize it. Her small village, though rich in culture and skill, was hidden away from the eyes of the world. The women artists, talented as they were, remained confined within the boundaries of their traditional roles.

Sunita dreamed of changing this narrative.

“I want to take our art to the cities,” Sunita shared her ambition with her mother, as they sat under the shade of a mango tree, their fingers deftly moving over a painted saree.

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Daring to dream where no one has gone before

Sunita’s mother looked at her skeptically. “Sunita, no one has ever done that. Our place is here, in the village.” Sunita’s aspirations were not common in her village, where tradition dictated the lives of women. The idea of a woman venturing into the world to do business was met with skepticism and outright disapproval.

“It’s not our way,” the panchayat said unanimously, shaking their heads in the meeting. The panchayat was a group of elderly men who held considerable influence in the village.

“A woman’s place is within the confines of her home,” they said. Sunita’s proposal to take her Madhubani art sarees to the city was met with a mix of curiosity and skepticism.

Defying stereotypes and controlling narratives

“The city is a different world,” the panchayat cautioned. “It can be unkind to those who don’t understand its ways.”

But Sunita’s determination was unwavering. She argued passionately about the need to embrace change and the opportunity to elevate the village women’s craftsmanship to new heights. “Our art deserves to be seen. We deserve to be known.”

There was a mixture of reluctance and curiosity in the village, and everyone still harbored doubts. Sunita’s first challenge was convincing her mother and then her community. The idea of a woman stepping out of the village, into the unknown world of business and trade, was met with resistance. But Sunita’s passion was infectious, and slowly, she started to turn skepticism into support. Surprisingly, Sunita found an ally in her mother, who, despite her initial hesitance, recognized the fire in her daughter’s eyes.

Harnessing the ancestral tradition – strength

“You have the strength of your ancestors,” her mother said one evening, as they sat painting together under the dim light of a kerosene lamp. “If your heart says it’s the right path, then you must follow it.”

With the blessings of her mother and the hesitant encouragement of her fellow Madhubani painters, Sunita left for the city with a heavy heart but an unshakeable resolve, carrying with her the hopes and skepticism of her people. Darbhanga, with its concrete buildings and endless streams of people, was a world away from her quiet village.

The city’s pace was overwhelming, but Sunita’s resolve was stronger. Sunita visited shop after shop, boutique after boutique, only to face rejection. Her initial attempts to showcase her Madhubani-art sarees were met with indifference and sometimes, dismissive glances. But every rejection only fueled her determination.

Pushing past all rejections

“These are beautiful, but too traditional for our clientele,” was the common response.

“These are exquisite, but too traditional for our modern customers,” one boutique owner said dismissively.

Each rejection was a blow, but Sunita’s spirit was indomitable. She remembered her mother’s words, “In every brush-stroke lies our strength. Don’t let the city fray them.”

Finally, Sunita’s persistence paid off. A boutique owner, intrigued by the uniqueness and quality of her work, agreed to display her hand-painted Madhubani-art sarees.

“These sarees are not just fabric with some sort of painting; they’re art,” The boutique owner, Radha, exclaimed, examining Sunita’s work. “Let’s hold an exhibition-cum-sale of these sarees.

“You think they will sell?” Sunita asked, hesitantly.

“Absolutely,” Radha replied confidently. “There’s a growing appreciation for authentic, handcrafted work. Let’s showcase them.”

A beautiful brush stroke of success

The exhibition was a hit. Sunita’s sarees, with their intricate designs and vibrant colors, captivated the city’s elite. Orders poured in, exceeding her wildest dreams. It was a small step, but for Sunita, it was the opening of a door that had been closed for too long. It was a turning point. Soon, her sarees were being talked about, admired for their blend of traditional artistry and contemporary appeal.

Back in her village, news of her success trickled in slowly. At first, it was met with disbelief.

“How could a woman from our village make a mark in the city?” people wondered.

But as more reports of her achievements came in, disbelief turned into awe and, eventually, pride. The same elders who had once doubted her, now spoke of her with respect. Women, who had seen their ambitions stifled, looked up to Sunita as a symbol of hope. Sunita’s success was not just her own; it became a collective triumph. Women, young and old, saw in her the possibility of a future they had never dared to imagine.

You did it! And so, now we can dream too

“You’ve made us all proud, Sunita,” Uday, the Panchayat head, admitted when she returned.

“You’ve opened our eyes to new possibilities.” The village women, once hesitant, now approached her for guidance.

“How did you do it, Sunita?” they asked, their eyes reflecting a mix of curiosity and admiration.

“It wasn’t easy, but yes, I still did it because our art spoke for itself. We have talent that deserves recognition,” she said.

Sunita’s success brought more than fame and fortune; it brought change in her village. The village, once skeptical of her ambitions, now celebrated her achievements.

One woman’s dream empowered an entire village

Sunita invested in her village, setting up workshops to teach and employ women. She started a few classes in the cities of Darbhanga to teach young girls and boys the art of Madhubani painting.

That year on Diwali night, as the village glowed under the festive lights, Sunita’s heart swelled with pride and joy. She had not only realized her dreams but had ignited a flame of hope and ambition in more village women and girls.

Sunita’s story was a testament to the power of belief, perseverance, and the enduring strength of tradition.

Image Source: Canva Pro

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About the Author

Sharda Mishra

I am a photographer and an avid reader. I am not a writer but I like to give words to my emotions. I love to cook and hike. I believe in humor and its impact read more...

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