Tag Archives: didi

Beautiful Things that Connect You Deeply


A product that is beautiful is simply a beautiful product. But a product that is beautiful and connects you deeply enters a world of personal meaning. Gifts often work this way. When someone you love takes the time to give you a beautiful gift, the gift’s beauty is a part of it – the other part is the person’s love for you, the intention behind the gift.

In working on Anchal’s Didi Connection Campaign, we realized the unique potential for our products to connect women to each other. Didi scarves connect us with a deeper understanding of sisterhood. Your sister is not just a the woman you happened to share a mother with, she can be anybody. She might live across seas, in another country – struggling the way many women today still do. In that way, Didi scarves aren’t just gorgeous scarves, they’re also symbols of collective meaning.

Here is a recent note I got from our Didi Heather:

“Today, I have just ordered three Didi Scarves and a baby quilt – I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to buy these beautiful things knowing that our sisters in India will be helped a little and that I will be the beneficiary of their beautiful handiwork. You are my Didi, your Mom is my Didi – we are all Didis together.”

This is a new age of conscious consumerism – let’s continue to surround ourselves with beautiful, meaningful products that connect us with something deeper and make a difference in this world.



Ever been to The Taj Mahal in France?


Greetings from France!

I’ll be reporting from an ocean’s distance closer to India from now on, as I am about to start a Master’s program in Dijon in a couple of weeks…

It’s good to be back after a year away from my “second set” of family and friends. Things are just as I left them, for the most part, and the beauty of fall in France is a nice welcome.

But I’m still homesick. I miss my family and dear friends in the States. Facebook gives an odd sense of closeness: I see events going on around the town I left, I comment on ideas and updates. In the end, though, I am too far away for hugs and strolls down Bardstown Road and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.

My fiancé, Nicolas, knows I’m homesick. So, he did what any man would do and took his girl out for Indian food.

Yes, the first date-night dinner we shared was at the Taj Mahal, a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant whose scents of curry and coriander and cumin wafted into the narrow French street and brought a sense of security to a girl so far from home. I could not have chosen a better place than this little purple-walled, vibrantly decorated place.

(It’s sometimes hard to find [good] ethnic food in France, which has always been one of my chief concerns about living here. [Does that sound strange?] Coming from food-centric Louisville, I am pretty demanding when it comes to variety. You should have seen how much Mexican food I ate in the weeks before my departure. Ghastly.)

Nicolas and I loaded up on Indian comfort food, beginning with vegetable samosas and chicken skewers and fresh naan. Then there was curry. Buttery, basmati-fied curry. As they say in France, “eet was zee best!”

(They don’t really say that in France.)

At the end of the evening, I was feeling a bit philosophical. Existential questions included, “how does a girl from Kentucky come to France and feel comforted by Indian food?”

Well, my friends, I think it has to do with associations. I’ve never been to India, you know. I didn’t even grow up with a vast knowledge of Indian cuisine. But in this last year, Anchal has brought me closer to India, and to my sisters there, than I imagined possible. By working with Colleen and Maggie and the rest of the Anchal gang, I’ve developed a funny sort of long distance connection with people I have never met, not to mention a tangible connection with the amazing women and men working stateside on the Anchal Project.

Staying connected, even in small ways, is good for the soul. My little French Taj Mahal reminded me of Anchal, and how grateful I am that I can stay involved, even across the Atlantic.

Now, that’s some powerful stuff, right?! If you’re reading this and wondering if this kind of Didi love is your thing, don’t hesitate to get involved! We need you!


Half the Sky + Anchal


If you happened to miss last night’s premiere of Half the Sky, you have a second chance to catch part 2 tonight at 9 p.m. on PBS.

Half the Sky:Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide was inspired by the book written by NY Times reporters, Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky was filmed in 10 countries and follows Kristof, WuDunn, and celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, and Olivia Wilde on a journey to tell the stories of inspiring, courageous individuals. Across the globe oppression is being confronted, and real meaningful solutions are being fashioned through health care, education, and economic empowerment for women and girls. The linked problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality — which needlessly claim one woman every 90 seconds — present to us the single most vital opportunity of our time: the opportunity to make a change. All over the world women are seizing this opportunity.

Anchal artisans stitching with America Ferrera & New Light’s Urmi Basu during the filming of Half the Sky

Where does Anchal fit into this global movement?  This evening’s screening is especially important to Anchal because our partner New Light and Director, Urmi Basu are highlighted in tonight’s film. America Ferrera met the New Light family and Anchal’s artisan during the filming last year.

It wasn’t long before Ferrera was sitting on the ground with Anchal’s artisans participating in our program and admiring their designs and their amazing strength to create change. She felt so inspired she offered to partner with us on the Didi Connection.

America said this about her experience:
“New Light and Anchal work hand-in hand: New Light saves the innocence of the children and Anchal restores the safety and dignity of their mothers. While working with New Light during the filming of Half the Sky, I was very inspired by Anchal’s program that provides creative jobs to support women out of the sex trade. I felt compelled to partner with them on the Didi Connection.”

Watch this clip from America’s time in India. This is the life of our artisans, where they live, and our amazing partner New Light. So do not miss seeing Half the Sky tonight at 9pm on PBS! And keep your eyes peeled for our friends Urmi Basu, America Ferrera, and Anchal’s artisans. We can not wait!

Cooking with My Didi


In honor of the Didi Scarf launch, I decided to invite my sister, Allison and my sister-in-law, Nancy, over for dinner at my house. We attempted to connect with the cuisine that our artisans might make by cooking a traditional Indian dish “Vegetable Kurma over Rice with Roti”. Together with my sister-friend, Christina, and my husband, Jake, we had a fantastic time laughing sharing stories, and most of all eating. Nothing brings people closer like food experimentation.

As we were making the meal I thought about how the very act of cooking, of providing nourishment for myself and others, is such a challenge in many parts of the world. I thought about how, many times, this challenge rests on the shoulders of women. It is a great and noble responsibility.

Much like Colleen and Maggie and Devon and Lauren, my sister (my didi) and I sometimes work together. She majored in Architecture at Smith College and I received my Landscape Architecture degree from RISD. From time to time we collaborate on design projects, ask each other’s advice about a certain element, and rely on each other for contacts and expertise. Even though we are very different we sometimes are tapped into one another’s wavelength. For example, she showed up to dinner wearing almost the same shirt I was!

For the recipe, I used the internet as a source. This proved to be a bit of mistake, for the measurements ended up a bit off. It seemed as though the author of the recipe confused tablespoons with teaspoons. We ended up having to make a lot of it up on the fly, but it turned out pretty well. Below is the amended recipe we made:

Serves 6-8 people

Vegetable Kurma

*Prepare Rice separately using a ratio of 1:2 (1 cup rice : 2 cups water) and boil in a sauce pan until all moisture is gone from the Rice. Add saffron or raisins if so desired
For the masala:
2 cups coconut milk (we used light, but regular is fine too)
2 tsp poppy seeds
6 tbsp dry roasted cashews
1 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 ½ tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp tamarind extract
1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced & fried in a tbsp of oil until golden brown (use only half of it for here)
1.5 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (made by grating fresh ginger and garlic and then mixing together)

Other ingredients:
3 roma tomatoes – chopped
4 cups mixed veggies cut into almost equal sizes – potato, green beans, carrots, bell peppers
2 tsp red chilli powder (or less based on the desired spice level)
1/8 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
3-4 tbsp canola oil
The other half of the thinly sliced onion


In a blender add all the ingredients listed in the “masala” list with enough water to make fine paste.

Heat oil in a pan and add rest of fried onion with tomato. Sauté for few minutes and then add all the vegetables. Cook them until done, not mushy just tender. Season to taste with turmeric, red chili powder and salt.

Add the masala to the vegetables. Cook on low-medium flame until oil separates on the edges. Mix in tomato ketchup and cook for few more minutes.

Roti (Flatbread)

2 ½ cups self-rising flour, or 2 cups self-rising flour and ½ cup whole wheat flour (If you don’t have self-rising flour on hand you can use 4 ¾ tablespoons of baking powder added to the 2 cups of flour)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup warm water
Vegetable oil for pan
Melted butter

Place flour(s) in a bowl. Mix in the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.

Add water slowly, stirring as you go, until dough starts to come together. Keep stirring, adding a little more water if dough is still dry, until dough forms a ball.

Turn dough out onto counter and knead, adding a little flour if the dough is too sticky. Dough should be soft, but not sticky enough to stick to your hands or the counter.

Let dough rest for 10 minutes, covered with a damp cloth.

Roll out dough in a large circle, about 1/4″ thickness. Spread about 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over the surface of the dough. Roll the dough up into a long roll.

Cut the dough into 8 to 10 pieces. Roll each piece out flat into a 6 inch circle. Let circles rest, covered with damp cloth, for 5 minutes.

Heat a flat heavy griddle or skillet (a cast iron skillet or crepe pan works well) over low to medium heat.

Roll the first circle of dough out as thin as possible (to about an 8-9 inch diameter circle).

Add about 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet. Place dough in hot skillet. Cook until bread puffs up and turns light brown on the skillet side. Slide bread to the each of the pan with your fingers, and quickly flip to brown the other side (about 1-2 minutes).

Remove from heat and place roti in a colander to cool. Cover roti with a damp towel while you cook the rest. Add more oil to the skillet as needed.

Roti can be reheated just like tortillas: in a low oven, wrapped in foil, or in the microwave covered with a damp cloth. Brush roti with melted butter before serving, if desired.

Makes 10 6-8 inch rotis

The entire meal took about an hour and half to prepare, but mostly that was due to some confusion, adjusting, and general joking about. Also, we were listening to Otis Reading during the process so there was some dancing too. I would suggest trying the recipes for yourself and amending it as you see fit. Maybe invite your didi, a didi-friend over and relish in the joy of nourishment.


Christina Sohn – photo credit, Jake Beckman – cheerleading credit