Tapestries of Hope and Resilience - By Anita R Mohan

In our own little way, we have strived to do our part to give back to the community - specially the now diminishing community of weavers who are slowly losing the race against machine-made garments. These weavers - who from generations have engaged in the traditional task of weaving beautiful sarees - are the backbone of the Indian handloom industry. But more often than not, they remain underpaid, under-appreciated, and largely unrecognized for their skills. When Shobitam reached out to these weavers, it is with the intention to make a difference in the lives of these gifted artisans.

When Anita R Mohan from Indiacurrents came to know about us, and heard our perspective, she very generously decided to write an article on this aspect of Shobitam. Of course, we were (and still are!) thrilled beyond measure. 

Here is an excerpt of her beautiful article:

"The other day, while airing out and refolding my sarees, I realized I hadn’t bought a saree in many years! A few days before Deepawali and my birthday, I knew I had nowhere to go but that was no excuse – after almost a year into the pandemic, I wanted to look and feel good.

I am a bit wary when it comes to buying sarees. An experience I had a few years ago changed how I shopped for sarees. A smart and savvy salesperson at a store was pressuring me into buying a saree. Through casual conversation, she told me weavers spend 12-14 hours each day weaving the saree and dyeing it. Each saree, she said, takes 20-25 days to complete and many times weavers forgo their meals just to fulfill the suppliers’ demand, and they get paid Rs 100-150 ($1.50-2.00) a day depending on the type and design of the saree. The silk saree I had selected was priced at Rs 5,600 ($80) but the weavers had only gotten paid about Rs 2,000 ($30) for all the hard grueling work they put in. I walked out of the store feeling terribly sad for the weavers. I decided then, if ever I bought a saree from a store or online, it would be from someone who valued the hard work of the weavers and compensated them rightfully.

Many of these weavers and artisans are daily wage workers who work in extremely poor conditions and are not treated well. Their hands and body take a beating because of the long hours they put in. Added to this are the corrupt middlemen who stand to make a profit by paying these workers just a measly amount. If this is their plight in ordinary days, one cannot begin to imagine what they must be going through during these times when Covid has literally snatched their livelihood away. Also, weavers don’t get their jobs back until the existing stocks are all sold. With business affected, weddings, and festive gatherings postponed, these artisans are literally left to fend for themselves! With nowhere to turn they are forced to look for an alternate livelihood. Though tremendously skilled in their art many of them lack the technological skills to sell their weaves directly and hence are exploited by the middlemen.

Sarees are a symbol of our culture and heritage, and they are associated not only with our stories and sentiments but every saree also has the weaver’s emotions, identity, and voice woven into it. We simply cannot let their looms go silent and their voices die."

Read the full article on

https://indiacurrents.com/tapestries-of-hope-and-resilience/

We would like to thank Anita R Mohan from Indiacurrents for taking the time out to share our story!


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