Endorsing Gandhian principles and aiming to inculcate similar values in its students, Delhi University is offering a free certificate course in ‘charkha spinning’.
“Come dressed in khadi clothes and learn how to spin the wheel, is all what is needed to pursue the recently introduced course at Delhi University,” said Nisha Tyagi, Deputy Dean (Academics), Gandhi Bhawan.
Every Wednesday, from 3 PM to 5 PM, a group of students gathers at the varsity’s Gandhi Bhawan to learn spinning the wheel and drawing the yarn from Sita Bimbrahw, a retired Hindi professor of DU’s Kamla Nehru College.
Passion for teaching charkha is nothing new for 78-year-old Bimbrahw, who has taught the art to former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, V P Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Morarji Desai, among others.
Bimbrahw, however, says, she enjoyed teaching the art to former Foreign Minister of Ireland Gerald Collins who was on a visit to India in 1991.
“I have been teaching charkha since 1969 at Rajghat every Friday, as Bapu was shot dead on Friday. It was one of those Fridays, when Collins had visited Rajghat and noticed me teaching the art to a group,” she recalled.
“He caught fancy of the charkha and expressed his desire to learn it. I was unaware of who he was and politely refused, saying it was time for me to go home. Then the officials accompanying him told me about him and asked me to demonstrate the charkha spinning.
“I further said, I only teach the art to khadi-clad people and hence can’t teach it to the minister. He asked the team accompanying him to arrange for khadi kurta as soon as possible.
“After changing into the khadi clothes, he asked me, ‘madam am I ready now to be your pupil?’. And I must say he was a quick learner,” Bimbrahw reminisced.
In the Gandhi Bhawan premises, sitting on mats, Bimbrahw teaches the students how to work on the Yerwada or Peti charkha, an efficient, portable model that Gandhi had devised during his time in Yerwada Jail.
“Unlike the Amber charkha, the Yerwada model is compact and folds into a wooden box. Students first learn to work with the small spindle and are then taught the charkha,” she said.
The course is not just restricted to Delhi University students, but is open to anyone who wishes to learn the art but prior registrations are mandatory.
“Charkha is such an important element of Indian culture as well as history and no other Indian university offers a course in it,” said Tyagi.
“It was surprising for us to see that majority of students registering for the course were boys and only few girls. A visually challenged person has registered too,” she added.
The Gandhi Bhawan has 17 Yerawada charkhas on which students can practice. On finishing 24 hours (12 classes), they will get a certificate by the university.
For students, however, its not a matter of certificate but they are impressed with the idea of pursuing an out-of-the box hobby.
Praharsh, a student of St Stephens College said, “I was amazed to see the kind of patience and focus it requires to spin a charkha. It is no less than pursuing an exotic hobby course!”