Rudraprayag: Knitting identity, just one loop at a time

Kusuma Devi knits a sweater at Kapaniya village, in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand

Over a period of time, the amount of orders received began to increase, Kusuma Devi work started to grow and also the earnings.

The way in which we think of ourselves has everything to do with how our world sees us and how we see ourselves successfully acknowledged by the world.
— Arlene Rankin

When she runs her hands across the knitting machine, you just can’t fail to notice the self-confidence in her and the passion that she has for her work. This is the story of 26-year-old Kusuma Devi. Kusuma Devi has studied till Class 8 and lives in Kapaniya village, Jakholi Block, Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. Kusuma never ever thought that she would be able to learn knitting one day. But what attracted her to take up knitting was the fact that she would be able to make an identity of her own one day — which she has done. Today from her knitting work she earns Rs 5,000-6,000 per month.

There are five members in her family including her husband, mother-in-law and two children. Her husband works in a small hotel in Mumbai as a cook. The family owns a field which provides them with grains for seven to eight months of the year and vegetables almost throughout the year. They also own a buffalo which takes care of the family’s milk supply. Kusuma really didn’t need to work, but the urge to make her own identity was something that was continuously on her mind. She wanted to take up something which would give her a decent income and most importantly recognition.

As a result, she decided to undergo a 20-day knitting training programme organised by an NGO in Uttarakhand — Udyogini — as part of their skill development training program.

Her husband did not believe that she would be able to learn knitting leave alone earning from it and therefore he refused to buy a knitting machine for her. Kusuma borrowed `5,000 from her father and bought herself a knitting machine and started her new venture.

During training Kusuma Devi made sweaters for herself and her relatives. Her neighbours and people living nearby after seeing her efficiency began to give her orders. This increased the self-confidence of Kusuma and she started working more diligently. The hard work that she put in began to show results in a short span of time and she earned `3,000 to 4,000 from which she bought wool. Over a period of time, the amount of orders received began to increase, her work started to grow and also the earnings.

One day Udyogini organised a workshop at the block development level at Vikal Block in which Kusuma Devi was invited and presented with an award for her outstanding work. Her nephew who was attending the programme clicked a few photographs of her receiving the award and posted it on Facebook. When her husband saw the photos of her receiving an award for her outstanding work in knitting, he was proud and at the same time confident about her using the knitting machine.

Commenting on her receiving the award, Jagvir Singh, Kusuma Devi’s husband says, “Earlier I did not believe that my wife would be able to learn this work but it is good to see that slowly but surely she has made progress in her work. She always wanted to do something different and today she has succeeded in doing so”. Kusuma’s mother-in-law is also happy with the work that her daughter-in-law is doing, “Women in our time did not have the freedom to do anything apart from work at home, but now times are changing. The whole village is proud of the hard work that my daughter-in-law has put in to start her own work. My son lives away, but my daughter-in-law does not let me feel his absence in the way she handles the responsibilities of the house”.

Mrs Pramila Devi, a customer of Kusuma Devi says, “She knits very well and prepares the sweaters on time. Her knowledge of colours and designs is also very good. Looking at Kusuma, I also have the desire to do this work”.

Another customer, Mrs Reena Devi says, “She is very good at knitting half sleeve as well as full sleeve sweaters, she makes very good sweaters. The types of sweaters that she makes in 700 to 800 rupees, the same type of sweaters are very expensive in the market. That’s why we come to her to make sweaters; the whole village likes the way she knits”.

Kusuma Devi’s work has not only been appreciated by her customers but also by Udyogini’s manager operations, Uttarakhand, who said that some time back the NGO went to her house to check the quality of her work. They were very pleased to see that what she learned during the training workshop, she was able to use it completely. The NGO thought that if it finds a market for her products, then it will help in speeding up the process of getting more work.

What does Kusuma Devi herself feel about her work? Without hesitating she says, “It is true that everyone likes my work and the work is progressing slowly. It takes four to five hours to fully prepare a sweater. The work is on the rise so now I need someone’s help to complete the work on time. There are some women who want to learn this work. I’m thinking of training them. This will also help them to earn some money and will help me too. I am planning to open a shop in the market if the work increases. I thank the NGO Udyogini for giving me this opportunity. After having successfully established myself, I feel that every woman should try to make a separate identity for herself irrespective of what work her husband is doing. The success of women like me should be an inspiration for the next generation”.

This success of Kusuma Devi should act as an eye opener for every woman and man who has a mindset that women are only meant to work within the four walls of her house. Women need to be allowed to live their dreams


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