TELLING SOUTH ASIAN WOMEN’ STORIES: Aparajita Chatterjee
Today, we feature Aparajita Chatterjee, Founder of Pickmepls.
As a child, as a teenager, as a college student, I felt like the ugly duckling who was awkward in every walk of life.
On the way from Delhi airport one day, my car drove past a big plastic trash heap. In the heap, were women picking through trash.
The image struck me.
I went back to see what they were up to. The women trash pickers were recycling items and turning them into clever handicrafts. Ms. Neelima took aluminum foil, which would otherwise sit in the landfill for the next 100 years, wash it, and refashion it into a glittering silver coated decorative elephant.
I started to make weekly visits.
The women were turning old tires into chic rubber hand-stitched vases. They fashioned discarded jerrycans into gift baskets and CD’s into coasters and decorative boxes that glimmered as if it was seaglass.
Most importantly, I saw these women discovering the beautiful swan within themselves with the work. I decided to take up the torch of helping them. I connected with government and private agencies and appealed to them to figure out a way to provide a sustainable and dignified livelihood for these women. After all, they were preserving the environment with their efforts.
I got the resources I needed. Pickmepls was born
A few months ago, I visited a designer’s exhibition in Delhi where young artisans were displaying their work. I thought how wonderful it would it be to have the trash picking women exhibit their handicrafts the following year. And it happened. The Expo Centre at Greater Noida, Delhi this past April made that dream a reality. It was a great experience.
Through this journey, the ugly duckling in me was silenced. Engaging in ‘community outreach’ proved to be the mirror I needed.
Was I late in finding the swan within? Doesn’t matter. Better late than never.