Postcards from: India with Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams in India
Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is our incredible Sales + Outreach Manager here at The Little Market. Last fall, Lindsay traveled to India with NEST, a fellow nonprofit empowering artisans around the world. She met with inspiring artisan groups and social enterprises in person, helping us to further develop our new and current partnerships. We had the chance to connect with Lindsay about her trip to learn more about the artisan groups and culture. 

Could you please tell us more about your work with NEST? 

I first learned about NEST in 2017 when writing a paper about nonprofit social enterprises for my Master’s program at the University of Southern California – Los Angeles, MSSE (Master in Social Entrepreneurship). Since then, I have traveled with NEST to Peru in August 2018 and to India this past November 2019. Both trips were so inspiring, life-changing, and without a doubt adventures that I will never forget. More recently, I have been asked to join NEST’s Junior Board, which I am very excited about, as it will allow me to become more involved with the organization and the incredible work that they are doing with artisans around the world. 

Taj Mahal - Lindsay Abrams' Trip to India
Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Abrams

What was your favorite part of your visit to India?

It’s hard to pick just one part of the trip! Despite the fact that it was a very smoggy day in Agra when we went to see the Taj Mahal, it was magical and a once-in-a-lifetime visit that I will never forget. I also loved so much about Jaipur, the Pink City, as it is famously called. The minute we got in the car with our tour guide, he was so open and honest about his life and the profound influence he believed his palm reader had on helping him move past some of the hardest experiences in his life up to this point. We asked him if he would take us to meet his palm reader and he did. It was such a fun experience to have our palms read in India and to spend the rest of the day visiting our tour guides’ favorite spots, specifically one for the best samosas, which were also a highlight!

Lindsay Abrams - Travels to India
Photo Courtesy of Rose Aschebrock, @wonderfullyrose

We are so glad you had the opportunity to meet with Craft Boat (the incredible artisan group behind our collection of gift boxes, stationery, and journals). Tell us about your visit! 

I had the most incredible time visiting Priti and her team at Craft Boat in Jaipur! When we arrived, we sat down with Priti to learn a bit more about how and why she started Craft Boat. It was so much fun to meet Priti in person, as we have emailed back and forth since I started at The Little Market in July 2017. I was so inspired by her story and her success as a young, female entrepreneur. After speaking with Priti and viewing Craft Boat’s office, Priti took us to see the production space where her team makes all of their paper products. I had never seen paper made before on such a large scale and was fascinated by the process. I was also able to meet many of Priti’s team members who work together to create the custom boxes, stationery, and journals that we sell at The Little Market. Overall, I was blown away by the visit and so grateful to have been able to meet Priti in person. 

Lindsay Abrams - Visiting Craft Boat in India
Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Abrams

Tell us about the additional artisan groups you visited during your time in India. 

We visited three groups with NEST — Aavaran, Freeset, and Loom to Luxury. At Aavaran, our first stop in Udaipur, we learned how this women-led group uses natural indigo dye and Dabu block printing to create beautiful clothing and products for the home.

Nest - Aavaran in India
Photo Courtesy of Rose Aschebrock, @wonderfullyrose

It was so interesting to learn about how Aavaran is working to preserve these traditional craft techniques while providing opportunities for both male and female craftspeople in the community. 

Nest | Aavaran | Block-printing Techniques in India
Photo Courtesy of Rose Aschebrock, @wonderfullyrose

Our next stop with NEST was to visit Freeset in Kolkata. Freeset is unique in that they are an artisan enterprise working with survivors of trafficking in Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red light districts. While we were not permitted to take photos during this visit, we were able to tour their facilities, where the women sew and screen-print T-shirts, canvas bags, and a variety of other items. We were also taken on a walk of the red light district with women in the community who work at Freeset. They were proud to show off their neighborhood and for us to see and better understand it. 

Lastly, we visited NEST’s artisan partner Loom to Luxury for the opening of their Varanasi weaving center. This was such a joyous day for both those that work for Loom to Luxury and for the NEST team, who partnered with Loom to Luxury to build this facility over the course of the past seven years. We participated in a traditional ceremony to bless the new building, planted trees on the property, learned how the artisan women use the looms to create gorgeous silk clothing, scarfs, shoes, and other products, and then enjoyed a celebratory lunch with the founder, Jitendra Kumar, and his family. Our visit to Loom to Luxury was emotional, inspiring, and a fantastic way to end our trip. 

Lindsay Abrams' Visit to India - Loom to Luxury
Photo Courtesy of Rose Aschebrock, @wonderfullyrose

What was your favorite dish that you tried?  

I ate vegetarian throughout the trip and honestly loved every meal that we had. A few of my favorites included paratha, which is similar to naan but has layers of cooked dough, malai kofta, which are dumplings served in a variety of sauces, and any and all dal. I also ate dosas every day for breakfast and miss them deeply! We never turned down an opportunity for a thali, a meal that includes a variety of dishes, curries, dal, rice, and your choice of naan or paratha, all on a single platter. 

We heard you were able to experience some of the Diwali celebrations during your time in India. Tell us about the holiday! 

Being in Varanasi for Diwali was like nothing I have ever experienced before. The Ganges was flooded with hundreds of thousands of people who had come from far and wide to be at the river on this day. The steps of the Ganges were lit up with candles. We sailed away on a boat down the river watching those on land dance and celebrate the festival of lights.

Nest | Dev Deepavali
Photo Courtesy of Rose Aschebrock, @wonderfullyrose

We even lit our own candles and put them in the river, saying prayers for those no longer with us. It was so calm on the river and yet when we got off the boat to head back toward our bus, the scene was absolute chaos. I’ve never seen so many people in one place and so many cows on the street! Regardless, it was fabulous in every single way and a gift to be at this special spot on the night of Diwali. 

Lindsay Abrams' Trip to India - Diwali
Photo Courtesy of Rose Aschebrock, @wonderfullyrose

Could you please share a few of your travel tips with us? 

Sure! I like to think that I am very efficient when it comes to packing, airport security, and flying. In terms of packing, I cannot emphasize finding the perfect carry-on for all your travel needs enough. I bring my carry-on everywhere I travel and always make sure that my La Jolla luggage tag is attached with my name, phone number, and email just in case. My mom calls it my “Mary Poppins bag,” as I am always pulling out something new that she had no idea I was able to fit into my suitcase. Even though India was a two-week trip, I packed everything in my carry-on suitcase and it was so easy to bring with me from city to city (we traveled to six different cities in India!). I also use packing systems within my suitcase to make sure that my clothes take up as little room as possible.

Another travel tip that I recently picked up while traveling in India is to always travel with wet wipes to wipe down your seat on the airplane. There is often little time between flights, so it is worth the effort to take a minute to clean the space around you to avoid germs from the person or multiple people who have sat in that seat before you. 

Do you have any exciting trips coming up that you can share with us? 

2020 is the year of weddings! At the moment, I do not have any exciting trips outside the country planned, but I do hope to go with NEST on another trip at some point this year or in early 2021. We briefly spoke about traveling with the same group to Rwanda, so I am crossing my fingers that that is my next adventure. 

Thank you so much for telling us about your travels to India, Lindsay! We loved hearing about your trip and are grateful for your important work with nonprofits. 

Stay tuned here on Cultural Exchange for more exciting travel coverage! And to read about Lindsay’s travels to Peru with NEST, visit our previous interview here.

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