It wouldn't be too hard to stick out in a simple white shirt and
black pants amid a crowd of glamorous dresses, jazzy shirts,
colourful trousers and high heels. Varanasi-based Badruddin and
Hanumanta were a duo with a mission of creating awareness of the
charm of India's age-old handloom work - and its growing problems.
They stood out as fashion-conscious crowds strolled, cheered and
even jeered at a plethora of outfits at the exhibition area of the
just-concluded Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW).
With as many as 128 participating designers, WIFW served as a
business-to-business platform for many, and in their case, to
educate people about the lost charm of handlooms.
Busy spinning the yard, they rued how the growing western culture
has depleted the importance of handloom work in India and how that
is the reason behind their everyday struggle for survival. "We
don't get wages for the work that requires so much of hard work,"
Badruddin, 55, told IANS while showing the minute work that he was
busy doing on the handloom machine.
"The main problem of handloom work is the market. When we take the
piece to the market, we don't get a price for it. And if we don't
get the money, how will we make the next piece? We need money to
make new saris and we don't even get that," he added.
Hanumanta, who must be in his late 50s, agreed. "We don't get
value for our hard work. We take approximately six to seven days
to make a silk sari and what do we get in return? Nothing."
Both the men were part of WIFW as members of Bunkar Seva Kendra,
an initiative by the textile ministry's Development Commissioner
for Handlooms, who lends support to local artisans and weavers
through many of their policies around the country.
At the fashion extravaganza, where designers hardly sell anything
below Rs.10,000, they were glad to get queries at least.
"People came with queries, but there are more number of watchers
than buyers. Most people want bling and other stylish fabrics. Who
wants to go for purity? People don't understand silk any more,"
They said handlooms around their village, 20 km away from Varanasi,
have depleted from 1,500 to to just 50 to 60. Plus, the
remuneration is not on a par with the market price of the project.
Hanumanta said the prime reason for the dismal payment is the
existence of middlemen.
"They buy our pieces according to their convenience, and we are
forced to sell for whatever price they want to as we need money
for our livelihood... even if it means selling it at a loss,"
Hanumanta told IANS.
That is also the reason why they discourage their new generation
to continue the trend.
"Our families have been into handlooms since generations, but we
don't want our next generation to get into this. Earlier, we used
to get a good amount, so we continued with this work. But now
there is no money," said Hanumanta, who is also a government
employee and earns a monthly income of Rs.32,000.
Even government schemes haven't been fully useful to free them of
"The government says it has already launched several schemes for
us (handloom artists), but the middleman takes the entire cost in
the form of NGOs and welfare communities. We want the mediator's
role to vanish. We want to get in touch with the government
directly," said Hanumanta.
Even while many of noted designers like Ritu Kumar and Sabyasachi
Mukherjee have been making efforts to revive the handloom sector,
the plight of such weavers is sad.
On its part, the National Handloom Development Corporation Limited
(NHDC), a national level agency for the promotion and development
of the handloom sector, has given handloom weavers many
facilities, said B.B Paul, director (Noth Zone), Weavers' Service
"We are bearing the transport cost of these weavers if they are
travelling to buy yarns from other states. Also, the government
has announced some bank facilities. These weavers were not getting
easy access to the bank, but now things have changed," Paul told
(Nivedita can be contacted at email@example.com)