Festivals are meant to be celebrated. But in this pandemic crisis, it is also important to think about the less fortunate such as artisans, especially traditional craftspeople, who have been badly hit by the lockdown. So why not head to Sasha on Mirza Ghalib Street (formerly Free School Street), near the Fire Brigade Headquarters, Kolkata’s first Guaranteed Fair Trade not-for-profit organisation which works with artisans directly and sources their products from across the country.
Said Roopa Mehta, co-founder of Sasha and now the President of World Fair Trade Organisaion, “Sasha‘s journey began in 1978. Its mission to build business capacity and capability amongst artisan societies and enterprises, create opportunities for women to acquire skills and self-assurance; thereby we create sustainable livelihoods through creating markets for our producer members. Sasha keeps a close watch on market trends and opportunities to continuously design products to match consumer choices.”
The moment you enter the store, you will be stuck by the unique look and colour of some of the products. A hand embroidered cushion cover with Kalighat Pat design, a coin box in the shape of a toy engine, a colourful leather and cane ‘mora’, boxes of myriad shapes and sizes, the list is endless. One of the unfailing attractions of Sasha has been its variety of products, from saris and dresses to fashion accessories, from household products to decorative items, etc. It is also one of the best addresses if you are looking for quaint hand-made gifts.
Located on the ground floor of an old building, the shop is spacious enough to move around freely with a wide range of products arranged in open racks for you to browse easily.
One of their highlights is the exploration of the famous hand embroidered kantha stitch of Bengal, showcased on products ranging from saris to stoles, cushions to bedcovers, from totes and purses to diary covers, etc.
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As you move from rack to rack, it is like taking a mini tour of Indian crafts hubs. Dokra artefacts from Chattisgarh, Pattachitra wall hangings from Odisha, Papier Mache boxes from Kashmir, Kalamkari bed covers from Andhra and Telangana, Batik leather crafts from Shantiniketan in West Bengal, etc.
If it is your lucky day, you may find a cute dress for the upcoming party. They have a wide range of stoles, from batik to hand woven to painted, which can go with a slew of dresses. Ask to see their range of fashion accessories, including ornaments made
Looking for eco-friendly tableware? Take your pick from terracotta tea and coffee cups or wooden bowls, spoons, and trays. The staff is always on hand to help if you need to mix and match to build a set. Meanwhile, do not forget to check their range of table linen, including table cloths, napkins, table mats and runners.
There are the typical leather and cane ‘mora’-s that can add colour to the seating arrangements in your room. They also stock some very pretty lampshades.
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Their Rasa brand, which showcases products made from natural and organically grown ingredients, includes spices and herbal teas as well as body care products (such as herbal soaps, body lotions, moisturisers, etc.).
In keeping with the pandemic situation, they have also launched a special Rasa hygiene kit. Packed in upcycled, lightweight, washable and reusable pouch bag are a set of handmade cotton masks, a square handloom ‘gamcha’ face towel, hand sanitiser, hand wash, and hand and body moisturizer.
With Diwali round the corner, it is worth taking a look at their range of candles and diyas. Their cat-shaped door stopper, embossed leather matchboxes (which can hold trinkets) and other wee designer boxes of many shapes, ladybird hanging with bell, penguin brooch, and cloth toys for children, etc. can make for quaint gifts.
Sasha is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to pm. Tel: +91 33 40620835.
Sasha is also present in Kisan Haat in Delhi. And online on Shopify, Okhai and Go Coop. In the light of the pandemic protocols, the organisation is further strengthening its online presence.