S.U.P.W. What is SUPW? Well.. SUPW is Socially Useful Productive Work. This was something we did once a week during school in India. During the SUPW class we did crafts, knitting, sewing and embroidery.

In elementary school, boys did crafts, girls did crafts. They were the same, but not really. Everyone produced their craft differently. We did origami, decorated cone wooden doll heads. If we forgot to get materials from home for the class, we would get pinched by the teacher. The pinch was our punishment and supposed to make us remember to get it the next time.

I distinctly remember one project, making a kind of paper mache bowl. I am not sure it is really paper mache but the creation went like this. Go to your kitchen , take fenugreek seeds and soak them in a bowl overnight. Then take newspapers and tear them up and also soak them in water overnight. Next day morning, make your mom or grandmom or anyone ready to do this in your family, to take the contents of the 2 bowls and grind them together in the kitchen mixer. Now find a bowl or maybe the same bowl that you soaked the stuff in, turn it over and spread the green gooey mix onto its bottom. Let it dry and then the next day you could separate it out and produce a paper mache bowl from this.

Nice…But was this socially useful? Hmm not sure. But it was definitely productive. We had produced something! And we had fun and our young minds were kept busy and creative. Well , fun yes, unless it was the day we had got pinched because we forgot to get our paper mache bowl…..

In middle and high schools the girls graduated to doing sewing, knitting and embroidery. We knitted different patterns , learnt to do different embroidery stitches by hand. And we also sowed and created frocks, rompers,  dresses and blouses. Hmm…it seemed like we were starting to get socially useful and productive.

If you noticed, I said girls graduated. Well, what happened to the boys? No… they did not stop being socially useful or productive. They just started doing socially useful electric work. What!!! Yes, they learnt to fix electrical circuits, connect light bulbs, make them shine and not sure what else.

The school and the board of education and the country thought that young women would be socially useful if they learn sewing and knitting in addition to physics, math , economics and history. And similarly the boys would become socially useful when they knew to build basic electrical stuff.

Hmm.. maybe this is a decent idea or strategy. But lets think again.. And now I want to be cautious, correct and respectful. India is a country with enormous man power. I don’t want to say cheap labor. So how many young adults from these schools actually used their socially useful productive or electric work.  A few maybe but it was quicker, easier and more economical to hire an electrician or get your clothes tailored….

So was this a waste? No, there is a small or maybe big section of this youth that is grateful for this learning. They are the ones that moved to other countries like the United States of America. When I buy clothes from the department and brand name stores  and the short is too short and the long is too long and the average is not quite alright, then out comes my sewing machine to the rescue. It is difficult to find someone to alter your clothes and may not be that cost effective. Thank you SUPW!

My husband likes fans and TVs. He likes to have them in every room. So here, the cost of a fan is almost quite comparable to the cost of installing it. So he installed all the fans and TVs in the house in almost every room…There!… we were now both Socially Useful Productive and Electric!