• Sushma Ramesh

A Woven Life by Jenny Housego with Maya Mirchandani

  • Book Name: A Woven Life

  • Authors: Jenny Housego with Maya Mirchandani

  • Publishers: Roli books India

  • Price: 600 INR (hardcover) and 520INR (for Kindle)

  • Available on: Amazon

About the Book:

Richly layered and remarkably candid, this is anything but an ordinary memoir. Life-writing at its truthful and unapologetic best, here is a story of a textile historian, entrepreneur and collector with an eventful and adventurous life story. As a child in countryside England, Jenny had thought she would grow up to be a spy, but life had other plans. Brought to the world of Asian textiles, art and museums, she has over the last five decades traveled across Asia with a passion to document traditional, local, and nomadic weaves and handcrafted textiles. She lays bare her idyllic childhood in the aftermath of the Second World War; her aspirations of being in the arts and then as a researcher at the Victoria and Albert museum in London; the struggles of falling in and out of love and a broken marriage; of parenting; and her passion for Indian textiles, having established herself as one of the most successful British entrepreneurs working in India who co-founded the luxury brands shades of India and kashmir loom.

About the Authors (As taken from Amazon):

Jenny Housego is a textile historian, designer and co-founder of Kashmir Loom. She has helped inspire a generation of Indian craftspersons to raise their skills to new heights of creativity and excellence. During her over three decades in India, she has ventured across the country to work with weavers and embroiderers to forge new ways of combining their traditional craftsmanship with contemporary designs. She also co-founded the successful brand Shades of India. Her work in Indian textiles added to India’s place on the world’s luxury map. Also active in numerous social projects in India, Jenny has not only revived ancient weaving techniques that had all-but disappeared, she also ensured the livelihoods of families from Haryana to Kashmir and West Bengal. She is the author of Tribal Rugs: An Introduction to the Weaving of the Tribes of Iran and of Bridal Durries of India. Jenny lives in Delhi and is often found at museums or brunching with her gang.

Maya Mirchandani is an award-winning Indian journalist with interests in Indian Foreign Policy, South Asia, and identity conflicts. She moved to research and teaching after over two decades with NDTV India. She teaches Media Studies at Ashoka University and is a Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. As a journalist, Maya survived a suicide bomb attack at President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s election rally in 1999; reported on 9/11 as the planes hit the World Trade Center in New York; survived pro-government mobs attacking the media during the Anti-Mubarak protests in Cairo, Egypt. From Moscow to Washington DC, Cairo to Islamabad, Freetown, Sierra Leone to Rangoon, and several places in between, Maya has traveled extensively, always in search of a good story to tell.

My take on the Book:

From the past couple of months, I have been reading a lot of memoirs and autobiographies, that I feel like they are becoming one of my favorite book genres this year. ‘A woven life’ has definitely added more depths to my affection on this genre, and I am really glad that I was able to read this book.

This memoir is about a British woman entrepreneur called Jenny Housego, her life struggles in setting up her hand loom business- ‘Kashmir Loom’ whose production center is based in the troubled state of Kashmir, and how she survives all the hardship life had to throw at her to stand where she is today.

The thing about memoirs for me personally is how its narrated from the perspective of retrospection about one’s life, which in turn inspires the readers to make and build their life's dreams. Jenny and her way of living life to the fullest, and doing what her heart truly wants have inspired me. Just like any average girl from her time, Jenny didn’t have an aim in her life, and what impressed me is even after repeatedly failing her exams she never gave up on her life. But rather, she took it as an opportunity to explore other things in life. She never stopped until she succeeded in having her own successful business.

Even after having an ugly failed marriage, even after getting her son get kidnapped by a Kashmir militant, even after having the entire left side of her body paralyzed, Jenny’s infectious positive attitude towards life, towards her love for handicrafts has amazed me. ‘A woven life’ is everything Jenny went through in her life in bringing her love for handicrafts to reality, to make India’s hand loom and craftsman skills world-famous, and to become one of the most prominent businesswomen India has ever seen. Regardless of being an English woman, Jenny has proved to be a true Indian, and everybody has something or the other to learn from her way of living life one day at a time.

Recommending this book to everyone looking for some inspiration in their life, and also to learn and understand the difficult 'behind the scene' process of how hand looms in India works.

Favorite quote from the Book:

“Life throws up challenges and choices when you least expect them. And I have been more than fortunate. Blessed with people who ensured that even the worst medical calamity does not define me today. As the light fades, and the sunsets past the Jhelum river over the mountain tops in the distance in a burst of flaming color, I know such a gift is given to few.”

Overall ratings: 🌟🌟🌟🌟