“We are rated on the kind of dresses we give our daughters.”
They grew up learning embroidery and continue to produce intricate designs on pieces which they display on their person everyday. The tribal women of Rabaris, a nomadic tribe inhabiting the Kutch region, spend all day embroidering clothes either for themselves or for the wedding of their daughters.
Two such Rabari women, Lakhma Ben and Jeli Ben, are in Chennai to showcase their talent. They carefully choose the right colour of thread and match them, and effortlessly weave fascinating patterns in minutes.
The women attach a lot of importance to the task they are so good at, for it has the potential to influence their daughters' in-laws. Lakhma presented five sets of dresses to her only daughter. Jeli has two daughters, one of whom is married. Her second daughter is 17 and will have to wait for another five years until Jeli can make five sets of embroidered dresses for her wedding. She has made two sets already.
“We have to show to the family into which my daughter is getting married what we have made for the girl,” says Jeli. “We are rated on the kind of dresses we give our daughters.” The middle-aged women are from Madhaparv, a hamlet in Kutch, and say they weave designs from imagination.
Housework takes most of their time as they also work as domestic help to supplement family income. “We take up stitching when we are free. Sometimes we work late into the night. About 100 women in our village are involved in this kind of work. If we ask them to do it, we will have to pay about Rs. 2000 to Rs. 2,500 per piece,” says Lakhma.
Besides wedding trousseaus, they also give a set of embroidered woollen and bedspreads and quilts. A minimum of 11 embroidered dresses are provided to the girl in her lifetime, the women say. They are here for four days to demonstrate their art at an exhibition organised by Saanskrutie at C.P. Art Centre in Alwarpet.