It's mid-February and summer is just about starting to creep in, in Jaipur. On a hot and dusty afternoon, we’re on our way to a rather nondescript locality in Jaipur unbeknownst to tourists. As the road narrows, we find ourselves outside a home. Upon closer inspection, we see a couple of artisans meticulously chipping away at blocks of wood. The process in question is that of creating hand block prints. The home belongs to Gayur Ahmed, a 7th generation, award-winning block printmaker who still creates these prints by hand as his ancestors did. Ahmed is at his workstation at 7:30 am every day along with a team of artisans.
We’re at Ahmed’s home for a masterclass during which we not only try our hand at this intricate craft but also learn about what goes into the making of each piece. For instance, it could take anything between a day to a week to create a single block print, depending on the intricacy of the design. Or the fact that Ahmed is carrying the 400-year-old legacy of his family forward with every piece of art that he creates.
At another end of Jaipur, close to the airport is Ram Gopal Saini’s workshop, an award-winning blue pottery artisan. During the same trip, we’re pencilled in a visit to his studio. Saini is a self-taught artist who is a storehouse of information on the subject. During the afternoon with him, there’s so much that we learn about craft—like for instance, whether it’s a coaster or a large urn, a blue pottery piece takes a minimum of 25 days to create from start to finish. Or that the blue pottery of Jaipur has its own G.I tag.
Yet another award-winning artist we encounter during this trip is Niru Chhabra, who has made an art form out of miniature writing on rice. Not only does she paint on rice grains, but also creates larger artworks by assembling them together.
These experiences are some of the many that are being offered by Rajasthan Studio, a travel company that provides artistic and offbeat experiences to the new-age traveller. So, you could choose to do a masterclass workshop with an artist or spend an evening taking a curated heritage walk in the city’s old quarter. Shedding more light on the way Gen X and Z travel, Kartik Gaggar, founder, Rajasthan Studio, draws attention to how a packaged tour just wouldn’t work for this generation. “They like to invest their time to do something meaningful where they can directly connect with artists and explore a city.” Further, he believes that people are not just buying products like they were a decade and a half ago. “Back then, the ambition was to own a high-end car or mobile phone. But nowadays that’s not as important as compared to travelling, exploring places and having a better standard of life.”
Of course, an initiative like this also provides an impetus to the artisan community, that’s had to suffer at the hands of the pandemic. With India’s rich artistic and cultural heritage, these crafts deserve to be showcased. At the other end of the spectrum, seasoned travellers too, are making the most of their travel plans—for, what better way to sink your teeth into a culture than by deep diving into its artistic heritage?