Happy Women’s Day!

This 2023 Women’s Day post is dedicated to the most awesome Priyanka Tolia and her Design Studio Chitku – a design and craft collaborative established in 2009.

The mission statement for it is:

“keep our craft practices relevant by designing products for contemporary lifestyles by intervening and adding basic innovations in material and techniques. We strive to conceive and create our products from indigenous materials and skills and hope it can present the best of contemporary Uttarakhand, and thus maybe, add our bit to the Indian Design Vocabulary.”

Priyanka had lovingly gifted me some of their creations and many have seen my favourite Chitku fairy hanging from my bag since the last 4 years.

It was on a warm Sunday afternoon when I was leaving after a nice meal from one of my favourite cafes and waiting for an autorickshaw in the shade when the little girl in the photograph came requesting me to buy the colouring book in her hand. She must have been around 5 and at an age when she should be colouring books like these she was forced to sell these! I usually do not give money to little children but get them something they want, mostly food or soft drinks. But all she wanted was to sell one of these books, I took one and then she spied little Chitku hanging from my bag. Her bright eyes started dazzling and she asked me in the cutest voice for the handmade fairy, “Didi, please woh wali doll de do (Elder sister, please give me this doll)” – my heart just melted and I immediately transferred Chitku fairy to her. I requested her for this photograph and you can understand her happiness.

Priyanka, all your years of hard work through personal loss and ill health, your team’s back breaking work is safe in the hands of a little girl, giving her moments of unfathomable happiness in her otherwise sordid life. Wishing you, your team and this little girl the very best wishes for a peaceful life, full of love and a safe women’s day, every day!

Thank you Priyanka for the moment of magic for the child and me .

For those who would like to read more on Priyanka Tolia’s work, her contribution to the the mobilisation of rural women from upper Uttarakhand in preservation of the Himalayan cultural heritage and transforming it into a business enterprise which is going a long way in chanelisation of mountain economy and reverse migration (where people return from big cities to their rural homes), here is the link to the post:

Priyanka, an English Honours graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, and an Exhibition Designer from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, set up Chitku in 2009 at the newly found state of Uttarakhand.

The origin of the word Chiku is as follows “…as kids they were asked to ‘go play chitku’ , which essentially meant a place where children were sent out to play. It was also the place where the young ones, under the guidance of the older girls and boys, playfully picked up skills of spinning and plying wools yarns and other textile arts.”

Chitku gave a little child her moment of childhood, far far away from the cold mountains of the Himalayas to a desert state. That’s the power of women like Priyanka! More strength to women like her, and to the men who support such women.


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