• Karen Selk

In Search of Wild Silk

I last wrote about the book I am working on, May 9, 2019, in a post called Beginnings. It was a glimpse into the subject matter of 30 years of research in the remote areas of eastern India.

One could say I have been obsessed with getting the words down on the page for more than a year, to the point of ignoring many other things in my life. It is now evident that life in the time of covid, is not going back to normal any time soon. I wanted to get as much writing done before life returned to “normal”. It is much easier to write every day, which I have been doing. One can pick up where one left off, almost without skipping a beat. Having a few days in between with no writing, means re-reading and staring into space to remember where the thoughts were going.


Last year I knew it was now or never to write this book. I turned 70, I lost my travel partner to dementia, and the words of Malathi, my east Indian mentor kept going through my mind, “it is your duty, to tell this story.” I also realized it would be a pity to let more than 30 years of researching this amazing subject die with me.


So here I am, writing like a fiend. Writing a book is incredibly hard work. I am used to hard work. But this seems to be all consuming. It has to be, in order to get done. Being a gardener, I think of the book in terms of a plant. There are so many things necessary to nourish it to fruition. It is the same with a book. The book is the plant nourished by: sorting thousands of photos, researching, letter writing to my Indian friends to make sure facts are correct, sending chapters to amazing friends who read and offer helpful suggestions, finding the right publisher, writing a book proposal and trying to keep up with my “platform” (social media). It is apparent I haven’t been attending to the platform recently.

In Search of Wild Silk - Revitalization of a Sustainable Cottage Industry, looks much different than a year ago. It has taken its own path. I am telling the story of the three silkworms, tasar, muga and eri but through stories. Stories called, Journal Entries from over 30 years of keeping journals from all the trips taken to India. Stories of the silkworm farmers, spinners and weavers I have met along the way. Stories of adventures encountered while travelling.



I am going to tantalize by posting some Journal Entries along the way.

Journal Entry – October 1988

Welcome Along the Journey

It’s 1988, 2 am - a foreign land of new smells, minimal night light and dark figures shrouded in blankets and shawls. A night that changed my life.

I’m in Delhi. India is a mysterious land unknown to me except through the photos and stories in National Geographic. It’s a year before the invention of the world wide web. Communication is by telex, a system similar to telegram but using a big machine with a printer instead of tapping out the message by hand. It’s a time in India when whispers inform us we’ll get a better rate of exchange on the black market. The black market – that sounds shady and possibly dangerous, but turns out to be safe, simple and even fun. We went to a shack on the street in front of a hotel, where the taxi drivers hang out. We enter when they determine the coast was clear. They accepted only US one hundred-dollar bills and offer us Thums Up (India’s version of Coca Cola), while counting rupees and dollars. It’s a time in India when women can tell where a sari comes from by fibre and technique and enjoy showing off their knowledge at parties by touching another’s clothing and commenting, “oh, such a lovely Varanasi”, or “the Bandhani is so fine”.

@ 2019 Karen Selk

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