A group of young Gandhians in Pune have started a unique initiative in the Kothrud area of the city where they regularly impart free training for charkha spinning to interested students.
According to the Charkha Practitioner and follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Madhav Sahstrbuddhe, nearly 15-20 people gather on the premises of Gandhi Bhavan in the Kothrud area every Sunday to learn charkha and spin yarn.
"Our efforts are to spread awareness about the conservation of natural resources and about a unique art like charkha spinning. We started in February, and hold morning sessions from 8-10 am every Sunday. The participants range from IT professionals, businessmen, students, teachers, and people of all age groups. Some people find peace by spending time here, and some practise concentration and skill," added Sahstrbuddhe.
Zubair, who works as a corporate professional in an MNC, has been joining the charkha spinning sessions since February.
"We have extended this activity to the Chinchwad area, and are also planning to extend it to Yamunanagar in the Nigdi area. The main logic behind this for me as a working professional is to have some kind of concentration. Everyone thinks it's just a simple activity but it is also a symbol to stand with Gandhi in the current times. And on an individual level, when we use our hands to rotate the charkha, it helps to develop our skills and concentration also," he said.
Charkha Sangha diaries
Another regular participant, Harshwardhan, has been joining the "Charkha Sangha" for the past two months.
"These practices do not exist within the times of urbanisation, so I came here to explore. For the first two weeks, I was just learning the operations of the Charkha itself. But after this, I tried to find the history and relevance of the Charkha, and I found that it is extremely significant and has been used in every generation in the past years," he said.
He spoke about the positive effects of dedicating himself to this activity, "When you use both hands to operate the charkha, both sides of your brain are activated early in the morning. It's very important to me for developing concentration." Asim Praveen, a Software Engineer working at IIT Bombay, has also been in this practice for a while, having learnt the skill from Madhav Sahstrbuddhe.
"Learning this opened up many doors. When you buy a shirt from a shop, you think very little about what actually goes into making it. But when I started learning this, the entire clothes supply chain started becoming apparent. The process is very illuminating. I look forward to someday wearing a shirt made out of yarn spun by myself," he added enthusiastically.
Asim spoke about possible next steps for this practice. He spoke about going beyond the individual level of satisfaction and concentration development, to something that can generate employment and uplift people who practice spinning.
"I dream about having some sort of collective employment generation out of this exercise. The spinning should go into some institutionalised framework, which it was originally intended for when Gandhi started using the charkha. There is a long way to go, but we could just start spinning daily and we could have a group of regular spinners, producing 5 km of yarn per month. We could establish weaving activities here and have fabric that is locally spun, and locally woven. The spinners and weavers could be paid on an hourly basis. This is how we could take the activity beyond the individual satisfaction level," he told