Ethnography is the study of people in naturally occurring settings or “fields” by methods of data collection which capture their social meanings and ordinary activities, involving the researcher participating directly in the setting, if not also the activities, in order to collect data in a systematic manner but without meaning being imposed on them externally – (Brewer)

My Inspiration on field (Text by Dr. Jignesh Khakhar, Image and graphic by Nayla Masood)

THE RESEARCH QUESTION – What sounds are significant to the social group? What is the quality of such sounds? How is the sound; how are the sounds significant for the group? What are the possible interpretations? How do these interpretations link up to what the group does on a daily basis?

Bandhej, an Ethnographic Study of Bandhini fabric Makers, was conducted at Nisar Dyeing, Ahmedabad, Gujarat in the year 2017. Over a period of 2 weeks, data was collected in the form of Participant Observations, Field Notes, Long Interviews, Images and Videos. The collected data was analyzed using open coding which led to interpretation of significant categories, phrases, metaphors and sounds for the group. The research manifested itself in the form of a physical artifact.


My selected social group comprised of three brothers- Nisar Bhai, Zuber Bhai and Ilyas Bhai. They have been practising this craft for the past 30/35 years. They hail from Rajasthan but are now settled in Ahmedabad, India. Their father, Abdul Latif, learnt this craft in Indore and moved to Ahmedabad in search of work opportunities. At that time, Ahmedabad had a lot of textile mills. Slowly and steadily, he learnt this craft and started liking it. And that’s how it came into their lives, as an inheritance.

  • Nisar Bhai is 43 years old and is the senior most member of my social group, both agewise and authority wise. He studied at the F.D high school until class 10th and left education post that so did the other two.
  • Short grey beard with an average complexion, he was usually found wearing a blue and white coloured skullcap. His tummy is a prominent one and sticks out, bulging like a spare tyre out of his stained grey coloured T-shirt that he wore most of the times while I was on the field, paired up with a loose stained trouser or tehmat (lungi) quite often.
  • He has a family of six, including his wife, Roshan and four kids (3 boys, one of them being Yusuf, and a girl).
  • He is a strong believer of the teachings of Islam and is well learnt when it comes to anything related to the culture.
  • He is the key decision maker of the family and is informed about every monetary move of the group.
  • Zuber Bhai is a 38-year-old man, through whom I gained access into my social group. Short heighted, his fat cheeks beamed with a smile most of the times.
  • Apart from the bulk order work, he also has a parallel venture of teaching and providing Bandhini training to college students mostly from NIFT, UID and NID.
  • He takes great pride in the craft and leaves no opportunity to brag about his profession.
  • He has a family of five, including his wife and two boys.
  • Ilyas Bhai is a 30-year-old man with a sleek physique and a comparatively darker complexion.
  • Ilyas bhai is a multitasker. He mostly keeps himself aloof from the conversations. He is the most active one amongst them all, would mostly get jobs done without speaking much.
  • He has a family of total four members, including his wife Tahera and two sons. His wife Tahera is a smart, cheerful lady who accepted me with open arms.
  • Ilyas Bhai and Tahera both ran a very tiny shop in Mirzapur in Ahmedabad. Tahera’s father looks after the shop in their absence.
Significant 'Categories'
Significant 'Sounds'

The metaphor that describes my social group practising Bandhini/Bandhej in the best possible manner as both from micro and macro level is ‘Tied Up and Down’ (Upar Niche bandha hua). Literally, the term ‘Bandhani’ is derived from the word ‘Bandhan’ that means tying up. The reason behind picking up a metaphor with a twofold meaning is that in their world, being tied is dual in nature. They are tied up as well as tied down in their lives. They are tied to the craft, their ancestors, their own families, the society and amongst themselves, only, the nature of the tying is different for each of the scenarios. The sound that best compliments the chosen metaphor is the imperceptible sound of the plastic covered fabric pieces being tightened with the help of a jute rope in a criss cross manner, in order to secure them for dyeing purposes.

Physical artifact
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