Gopal owns a wholesale fabric store in the Gandhi Chowk market area in Tenali. It is a shop where people can shop for personal purchase, as well as a wholesale store for local village store owners to buy material in bulk for their own reselling. Which means Gopal's shop is forever exploding with fabric. It is amazing to sit in his store and be surrounded by shelves and piles and piles of beautiful cloth. I love being there when he unloads new shipments of saris (girls...this is when you start smiling and imagining how awesome this shop is).
I first met Gopal during my first time in India on the ROCKHarbor two week trip in December 2011. He partners with Harvest India to provide the fabric and tailoring for women's punjabi dresses and saris. When we moved to India in October 2012, he visited our home with a few selections for dresses and saris also. This helped us a TON since it is important to dress culturally here and we were ready to be out and about, dressed in Indian wear, in a matter of days. Eventually, we found out where his shop was located and have made visiting him a weekly activity. Think of it as Indian window shopping meets our tiny monthly allowance "splurge fest" for the girls. :)
But, visiting Gopal is not just about looking at fabrics and choosing new clothes (which looking at saris is amazing here!! So much creativity and beauty in every cloth). We like to ask Gopal about his family, his children, his workers. He buys us a Sprite or chai from an outside vendor and takes a lot of pride in showing us all his "latest fashion, very comfort, very smooth, high class" cloth at "small, small cost." This really means that we can purchase a sari or complete punjabi outfit, with stictching, for under $6-$10, usually. He has brought over his daughter to our house when he delivered tailored clothing and we sat and chatted with his daughter in English for a while. We have become friends. He especially loves John. Gopal even called John on Christmas morning (a holiday he doesn't celebrate) to wish John a Happy Christmas. When we returned to Tenali in July, he called us a few days later and wished us a happy return. We simply enjoy his company and sharing joy and laughter with him, while being surrounded with beautiful material.
And what is also neat is that his shop has become a great place to meet other women in Tenali and have small conversations in broken English and Telugu. Shyness and language barriers seem to crack and break when local women and me and the girls are all sitting on the ground, admiring a sari that is draped over all of our laps. Choosing saris and punjabis together is really fun. We learn more about culture and continue to feel more at home in Tenali, a little bit more a part of the community and town.