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The Gratifying Aftertaste Felt By Fatima

"Success tastes sweeter when you have earned it."- Dom Du Toit

But somewhere I don’t think that Fatima Sheik, one of the Aftertaste’s first artisans, just tastes the sweet aftertaste of success. I think she also tastes the fizzing & exciting bubbles of soda pop that express her newfound independence and the refreshment she gets from creativity and expression in her life. And last but not least, the best of them all, she now enjoys the bland yet warm taste of bread that represents the stability in her life.

Fatima Anis Shaikh, a self-trained artisan at Aftertaste India

Fatima has come a long way from a past of financial and personal struggle to a present and future of confidence and belief. When she first joined, she was a struggling mother. She wasn’t able to fulfil the needs of her children or run the house properly. Likewise, her husband, who was a daily-wage worker, had his own problems. Her husband suffers from epilepsy and the family was finding it very hard to pay for their necessities, the children’s education, and his treatment.

Society purged with backward thoughts would have wanted Fatima to accept her fate and stand with her family by accepting a job like a maid or a cook in the big city of Mumbai, but Fatima wanted otherwise. She wanted to do something about her family’s condition, Something that wouldn’t take her away from her children and husband but would still allow her to earn and change her and her families fate. That’s when she found Aftertaste.

Aftertaste was the key to solving her problems. Aftertaste India, a social enterprise set up by Shalini Datta, trains women from urban slums to become highly skilled artisans. They are taught to make dreamcatchers, paintings, lamps and notebooks using organic, and eco-friendly products.

Hand-crafted lamps, photo frames by artisans of Aftertaste

Training herself at Aftertaste not only allowed Fatima to earn a salary and support her family, but it was also so flexible with her timings that she could still attend to her family. She was in new terrain and with only a few other women like her, she struggled to adjust but she never gave up. She laughs about it even now saying that,

“It was a steep learning curve for me to make even the first product: a paper bag. In the beginning, I felt I won’t be able to do it, and wanted to give up so many times. But didi (Shalini) and my 2 other teammates pushed me and gave me the courage to keep trying. For the first time, I was in a place where I was allowed to make mistakes and taught with love.” - Fatima

She and the other ladies at Aftertaste probably never imagined earning a living by drawing and crafting. Coming from small villages where female children could have been considered a burden, women like Fatima were probably married off at very young ages and never given the chance to study, forget holding a job. They have come a long way since those times both physically and mentally. They now feel proud when a woman like them works to support her family instead of thinking about it as a bad thing.

Over time, Fatima became one of the best painters at Aftertaste and eventually paid off all her family’s loans. In fact, with her own hard-earned money she is now able to educate her daughter in a private school and has recently bought a plot of land for the family’s future. She has learned to be self-reliant and can express herself through her art.

She thinks positively about her future and recounts with a beaming smile that “I have come a long way since then. I look forward to coming to the office everyday and sharing with my friends at work. I feel mentally and physically relaxed at work and forget all my tensions here. My work gives me the strength to take personal decisions which I didn’t think were possible earlier.”

Touching stories like Fatima’s has started opening up people’s minds about women empowerment and has led to more and more women joining Aftertaste over time. They too like Fatima are now the breadwinners for their families who now don’t just look at them as just wives or just mothers but with respect as the creative commanders of the family.

About the author:

Malavika Garimella, is a Grade 11 student from Greenwood High International School, Bangalore.

You can check out Malavika's other blog here.


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