ISP Jaipur Bureau
The story of artisan Ruma Devi of Barmer in Rajasthan is a story of grit and confidence. A school dropout who rose to become a Harvard speaker by her talent. She is credited in India for bringing to the forefront the lives and hard work of the craftsmen who are generally the invisible force behind all that glitters on the ramp and the red carpet.
Ruma’s life of fame as a master craftsperson of India employing hundreds of women and renowned for her line of design and clothing fashion is riddled with a challenging past. Her mother passed away early in life and the place she was brought up was far off and she had dropped her education after class 8th. She was married off early at the age of 17 and there were no avenues which could give her reasons to dream big.
She was taught stitching by her grandmother and she started experimenting with intricate Rajasthani designs at an early age. The colourful patterns of the desert made by her charmed everyone. But she was confined to her village and urban dealers used to buy those finished products from her in the village.
It all changed one day when a group of fashion designers visited Barmer and worked with Ruma Devi and other women in a village on some new designs. When it was time for showcasing the designs, Ruma was neglected even after requests and this hurt her badly. She decided to develop her own designer wear and market it directly to the world. She knew that her exquisite embroidery work was unique and she wanted to tell it to the world. She formed a group of women and managed to collect Rs100 each in order to buy raw materials to make handbags with her special hand embroidery. This changed the way the village women sold their artefacts.
In 2010, Ruma Devi and her women’s group’s intricate craftsmanship was duly noted by the local organisation Gramin Vikas Evam Chetna Sansthan and it supported Ruma’s group. Today, she supports 30,000 women in 150 villages through her work in different parts of India. She has been awarded the 2018 Nari Shakti Puraskar, a prestigious annual award given by the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development to women and institutions that work towards female empowerment. She has received an honorary PhD from Mahatma Jyoti Rao Phule University in Jaipur and was featured on the India Today cover and was the special guest on the Kaun Banega Crorepati television show. Ruma was a Harvard University speaker for the annual India Conference 2020.
With her visits to Germany, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the US and UAE to promote the arts and crafts of Incredible India, Ruma is now working consistently to market Indian handmade craft products in the global market.