On my travels, Agartala, Tripura’s capital, was the most unexpected place I visited. It feels like eons ago when we all didn’t have masks as our constant companions. I was on assignment to assist with a story-telling workshop at NSD (National School of Drama). Agartala is a city bustling with activity. It is located on the banks of the Haora River, near the Bangladesh border. Since I happened to be there in February, the weather was cool and pleasant.
After a busy week of workshops, Exploring the city and its outskirts was possible with limited time at hand. The hustle-bustle of the metro city hasn’t choked this place yet. Therefore, it was easy to cover most parts by walk or a short ride.
Like any other new place, I visited the marketplace and found myself checking out clothes. Amidst many shops was this quaint, neat, cute, small store with a colorful traditional artisanal creation called FitBird – A resource of Art & Humanities. The staff in the shop couldn’t converse in Hindi or English, and since I was window shopping, I popped in and popped out in a jiffy.
As I waited for others to finish shopping, a very smartly dressed woman in traditional wear passed me. Our eyes met, and we exchanged smiles. And I noticed her going into a particular shop… the neat, cute one, and I noticed her talking to staff in an owner-like demeanor.
I went back in; she was indeed the store owner, and now I started exploring the shop to understand what each item was, and I fell in love with a particular piece. A traditional red wraparound called “Rignai” is worn by the women of Tripura. Such a bright outlook on the prosperity of the region and women.
I was so smitten by that piece of fabric and the owner that I pestered her to give me that piece as a barter gift without taking any money. I was experimenting with finding kindness, and besides that, I was low on cash too! Just to tip the balance in my favor, I threw in a date with the owner to a place of her choice in Tripura for an exchange of my travel stories and to get to know each other more. She was kind to accept, and her name was Lovely.
The date of the conversations just opened up so much more about her. She had foundational experience at Hindustan Lever and was involved in promoting women’s entrepreneurship journey for the women in Tripura. And furthermore, all the pieces she sold were handwoven or handmade precious pieces by the tribal women. The business was, therefore, an outlet for cooperative and collaborative efforts, enabling the tribal economy. She was an ecologically and economically conscious human being, making an impact in the most unlikely of places in India.
Fitbird is a venture that should be on everyone’s must-visit list while in Tripura. It is located in a crowded marketplace. You could miss it, but it is a treasure trove of priceless work, worth a little search and treasure hunting. Check them out on www.fitbird.in and follow them on their social media handles – Facebook
And of course, Lovely and her staff are some of the kindest people to meet.