Businesswoman Kakuben Lalabhai Parmar

The New York Times has a nice story about Kakuben Parmar who has come from Madhutra, Gujarat to Manhattan to sell her wares at the Asia Society.

PLENTY of people exchanging free hugs in Times Square last Sunday traveled a long way to reach New York, but it’s safe to say that few covered anything like the distances Kakuben Lalabhai Parmar had. This is not just a matter of mileage, although certainly it’s a hike from Madhutra, a rural village in the western Indian state of Gujarat, to 42nd Street.

At a practical level, Ms. Parmar’s trip required a series of unusual conveyances, among them a bullock cart, a trishaw, the flatbed of a Jeep and the open-topped shuttle bus she rode to reach an airport before boarding a form of transport she had seldom seen up close before, let alone ridden.

Not a lot seemed to faze her. She took in stride urban commotion, the assorted indignities of travel, the novelty of seat belts, in-flight movies and also elevators, escalators, yellow cabs, mattresses and the abundant forms so standard in life that could be unnerving to an illiterate whose signature is a print of her thumb.

She flies around the world on her own. She takes taxis. She shops at Walgreens and somehow manages to domesticate the experience of visiting a world-class museum like the Met by finding creative kinship there between her own utilitarian patchworks (“We never wasted a scrap of fabric,” she said) and a Malian mud cloth or a Sudanese tent divider embroidered with Venetian trade beads and cowrie shells. She proselytizes in an easy and natural way for the importance of educating women, getting them out of the house and into jobs.

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