Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I said "Charkha", not "Chakra"

I think I might be saying that a lot in the next little while.....  People's eyes already get that unfocused, confused look when I mention I spin "like Sleeping Beauty, not on a bike"....adding the words "Charkha, not Chakra" will probably not help with my cool, hip,  sexy momma image... Sigh... that was probably always a lost cause...

On with my story...... Dale has a very nice man working for him (people that get me presents are always very nice, just saying'... *wink, wink*) who was heading home to India in December and asked Dale if he would like anything. Dale told me about the offer and, being the fibre-obsessed, weirdo that I am, I immediately said that I would love an Indian built table-top Charkha. There was only one teensy-weensy problem... I wanted a decorative Charkha.

Firstly, I should probably explain what, exactly, a Charkha is (and what a chakra is to, I suppose. Although I'll just link that one to Wikipedia.... here). A Charkha is a type of spinning wheel, used mainly in parts of Asia to spin fine, short stapled fibres like cotton (or cashmere, or even silk which needs a higher twist ). It is similar to a Great Wheel in that the drive wheel is spun by hand and the fibre is spun onto a spindle (unlike a treadle wheel where the wheel is turned with the foot treadles leaving the hands free to draft the fibre which is then spun onto a bobbin using the flyer assembly). Ghandi used the Charkha as a symbol of the Indian Independence movement in the early half of the Twentieth century as part of his non-violent, non-cooperation, peaceful resistance against the British. His argument was that Indian should be able to spin their own cotton, rather than shipping the cotton to the UK and then have the resulting cloth sent back to India where prices were too high for most Indians to afford. This would also allow Indians to boycott foreign cloth and support their own economy (the Independence Movement was obviously about more than spinning cotton, but I am only sharing a very simplified version as it relates to my story). He would often sit and spin cotton on his charkha and bid that other Indians do the same. He even invented the book (or briefcase) style charkha so that spinning could be more portable. And I wanted one.... First of all, I love the story of Ghandi. He's a very interesting man. I read his autobiography years ago and parts of it have always stuck with me. Secondly, I love stuff that comes from somewhere. Stuff that has a story and is different from the things that I can buy in the stores here. I could easily buy a briefcase Charkha locally (that is made in India and shipped to the vendor), but I wanted a Charkha with a story and I wanted it to become a part of my furniture and home. Which leads me to my problem of requesting a decorative Charkha.....

Charkhas are tools and the people that still use Charkhas in India use them as such. Many of them need to spin their own cotton in order to clothe their families. Spinning is not a hobby like it is for me, it is a necessity and to have a decorative Charkha would be a  waste of resources. I knew this when I asked, but I thought that maybe, just maybe Sandeep would understand what I was looking for and if it was not inconvenient, find it for me (I did stress not to go out of his way or to make it a big deal... I would be happy with a new Charkha or not.... either way was good with me). Sandeep asked me for some pictures and I found two pictures online that were examples of what I was hoping for. One of the pictures happened to be from a store that was only a block or two away from his home in India (which I want to say is in Mumbai, but it could be New Delhi).... Kismet, I think so....

Here is the picture I gave him

And here is what arrived today....... I was worried about putting it together, but it was very simple to do.

It is completely handmade and has that wonderful look and feel of something made in another country by hand. It is, unfortunately, missing the spindle and spindle supports, but I'm pretty sure I can find those locally or have them made.... regardless of whether I can use it to spin today or not (not, as it turns out), it is beautiful and I am eternally thankful to Sandeep for bringing it home to me.

Thank you Sandeep.


  1. OMG its beautiful, gorgeous, what a unique and lovely piece. I absolutely love it!!!

  2. Wow!! It is amazing! Sandeep did an incredible job finding you what you wanted! Nice to have such nice friends!! Congratulations on such an amazing find!