Of what importance could a plump, fluffy cloud be to you, except to be admired, floating on a day that spells clear skies? But to a cotton farmer, a cloud matters a lot as his harvest is dependent on these masses.
Bringing together clouds with cotton farmers and farming is Once upon a Doug, a not-for-profit initiative. The name Doug, which is derived from Dhug, Marathi for cloud, is also the monicker of a symbolic cloud fashioned out of scrap material by women of the cotton farming communities o f Maharashtra. Once Upon a Doug is an initiative by No Nasties, a Mumbai-based T-shirt company that uses 100 per cent organic fair trade cotton along with NGO Chetna Vikas that works towards the empowerment of women in the
Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Pearson College London students and Pave Internships, which offers internships to students from around the globe, in India.
Every Doug is made of colourful scrap fabric and recycled T-shirts and comes with little stitches that form a silver lining, literally. A thread attached at the back transforms this little symbol into a multitasking accessory. Use it to tie your hair, wear it as a brooch, bracelet, or pin it to your backpack.
“Carrying around or wearing the cloud might be a small gesture but it can reach out to a large number of people. We’ve had people tagging us on Instagram where the Doug has been tied to a camel’s neck in Rajasthan or attached to a cycle in Paris,” Kothari tells us. A video is also being shot with the women Doug makers, to create a DIY starter kit. “I wanted to create a symbol that would address the issues of the cotton farmers of India,” explains founder, Apurva Kothari.
A cloud would be a perfect symbol, realised Kothari, four years ago. According to him, it also represents the agrarian crisis facing the community (the alarmingly high rates of farmer suicides in the cotton belts), and acts as a symbol of hope and freedom.
Kothari’s wife Shweta came up with the cloud design, Chetna Vikas helped to train women to make these keep sakes and students and interns of the Pearson college and Paves Internships helped in branding and marketing. Kothari assures us that there is complete transparency in terms of funds as well.
“At present, the women are paid Rs 20 per cloud and make about 100 to 200 monthly. All profits will go back into the community,” he says. Rather than individual purchases, Once Upon a Doug is looking at larger numbers of support and sale because each Doug is priced at only Rs 100. A minimum number of 50 can be ordered online.