The night before a big trip, I never sleep well. Butterflies swarm in the depths of my belly and I can hardly contain my excitement. As Remake’s photo journalist for our recent trip to Himalayas, I was a bundle of nerves and excitement. I was thrilled to embark on this journey full of planes, trains and automobiles, all leading up to meeting the women who make our clothes. This is a story I really wanted to tell.
Our first stop was Delhi which is the epitome of hustle and bustle. Our camera crew, laden with equipment, got to experience Delhi’s notorious street—cars, bikes, carts, motorcycles, rickshaws, all weaving in and out of the same three lanes. It was overwhelming at first, but I got used to it.
We spent a day in Delhi visiting factories. Listening to the hum of sewing machines and seeing the rows upon rows of people silently sewing our clothes was humbling. It’s an experience that I will never forget. It has forever changed my relationship with my own closet. The amount of effort—human effort—is staggering.
We left the sea of people, constantly honking cars, and crazy Delhi traffic to board our train which was another extreme experience. I couldn’t tell whether the barred windows on the train were meant to keep people in or out. We clung to our camera equipment as a sea of passengers, and coolies (porters) laden with bags all seemed to rush from the platform to the train at the same time. Next stop: Kathgodam.
The noise of the bustling city started to melt away, and buses, cars and rickshaws gave way to green countryside. Our rest stop at Kathgodam was stunning. Set against lush green mountains and valleys, it was truly a sight. My stomach did another flip-flop as we began the car leg of our journey to our final stop, Supi, a village nestled in the Indian Himalayas.
We crammed all of our gear into a car and made our way to the village. The drive was terrifying. We were speeding up narrow winding roads with rock outcroppings on one side and steep cliff drop-offs on the other. No one wore a seat belt, and it seemed to be common for 3-4 passengers to sit in the front seat of cars that passed us. I tried to keep altitude sickness at bay as the car sped upward.
We arrived at the foothills of Supi, and it took my breath away. Green as far as the eyes can see. On my tippy toes, I could even see Mount Everest. What was even more magical, however, were the women who run this village. As soon as we arrived, we saw a line of women expertly scaling the mountain, doing the 45 minute hike up with heavy loads of wood, hay, food and water—all of life’s daily necessities—balanced on their head.
We unloaded the car with the help of several of the women. Here we were, struggling in our hiking boots and warm jackets to do the 45 minute hike up to the village with small backpacks, while they wore thin slippers and saris, and balanced our heavy bags on their head and necks and ran up the steep, rocky, slippery terrain, without any hesitation.
It was a culture shock to see the women doing the heavy lifting and I was taken aback by how strong they were. Fearless and Resilient. Those were the words that came to my mind. In the days to come, I kept coming back to how this was a story of resilience.
We settled into the guest house and were greeted with cups of tasty chai tea and delicious potato snacks. The warmth, openness and hospitality of people who had so little, to us—consumers who consume too much—was humbling.
As the sun set on our first day in Supi, the butterflies returned. I could not wait to document this incredible journey.
- All that prevents drivers from careening of steep cliffs is white spots painted on the rocks and hillside.
- Supi has been around for 500 years, and is about 6400-feet in elevation.
- About 2000 people live in Supi, mostly women because the men leave to find better work opportunities.
- Men, women, children, all hold one another’s hands (and that warmed my heart)