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Usher in the summer with cool khadis

Its that time of the year when cool, comfy khadi is what gets that "feel good factor" ticking. The ongoing exhibition-cum-sale of khadi and village industries products at the Prahaladha Kalyan Mandapam in the city showcases, among other things, a crop of modern wear that is fashionable and temptingly comfortable for both the young and old.

Khadi is "any cloth woven on handloom in India from cotton, silk or woolen yarn from a mixture of any two or all such yarns." In a sense, khadi conquers the emotional barrier and comes touchingly close to the wearer. M K Gandhi thought of this cloth essentially as an economic proposition to a people who hardly had anything to fall back upon. Gradually, the simple handspun and hand-woven fabric caught the imagination of a nation and slowly acquired a new status, the meaning of which, as we all know, went far beyond the realm of a mere cloth.

The Khadi and Village Industries Commission, established over three decades ago provides technical know-how, raw materials, management, inputs and forward and backward linkages to the rural poor through charitable institutions, cooperatives and voluntary agencies. Basically, the objective of the KVIC is to harness local materials and skills for production of articles and to generate employment in the rural areas. Besides, the adoption of simple technology adopted in this tiny sector ensures prevention of pollution and aids ecology. Apart from production of handspun and hand-woven materials (khadi), by using local materials like cotton, silk, woolen and blended fabric, the production of polyvastra has also been taken up so as to generate more employment and enhance quality.

The demand for khadi is increasing rapidly, not just in the domestic market, but also across the world. Khadi is very comfortable to wear since air can pass through easily and it prevents any kind of skin rash. Its comfort, in both the fine and coarse varieties, is way beyond artificially made synthetic fabrics like nylon, rayon and terelene. On offer at the ongoing exhibition are a range of products in cotton khadi, silk khadi, woolen and polyvastra khadi. These include both readymade and dress material for shirts and kurtas of tussar silk from Bishanpore in West Bengal. There is also spun and bapta silk and the tussar variety which comes with stripes of black. The single and double thread muslin khadi from Kotanandur in East Godavari district make for great shirts and kurtas. Also from the same area are shirts and pants in polyvastra, pyjama cotton material, polyster made shirts with buta design and cotton handkerchiefs. The muslin khadi from West Bengal comes in several colours ranging from green to light pink. The cotton towels in various colours and designs have the distinct feel of khadi.

Visitors selecting the fine kurtas on display at the exhibition.

Then there are the excellent printed silk sarees in bright colours from Musheerabad. They come in batik, badri and Pochampalli prints. An ideal summer wear for women is the dress material in cotton khadi for salwar kameez and kurtas. The ready made shirts in pure khadi, polyster khadi, muslin khadi and silk khadi that come in many colours, as well as the shirt material in checks make for a tempting buy. Apart from readymade kurta pyjamas in white, there is khadi print material in various colours. Also on offer are banians with the pocket in front that are usually worn by the aged. These come in white and several colours. There are also printed bed sheets for both single and double, lungies, cotton mattresses for all sizes of cots, printed door and window curtains and pure cotton blankets from West Bengal that can be also used to relax on the floor.

A particular attraction at the exhibition is the stall put up by the Bharat Hand Made Paper Industry. It is common knowledge that the usual process of paper making involves use of conventional raw material like bamboo wood for making pulp. The consumption of this precious raw material by, among others, rapacious paper mills has destroyed large areas of forest leading to rapid deforestation and ecological imbalances. As an alternative, a simple technology has been developed for producing paper in the decentralised sector by using hosiery waste, cotton rags, old gunny bags, agro-waste and recyling of waste paper. The paper produced in sheet form is popularly known as handmade paper. Using non-wood material is an eco-friendly way to make paper. Apart from possessing strength and durability, handmade paper is known for its elegant and exquisite surface for writing, indestructibility and permanence, unmatched texture for drawing by artists and engineers, countless personalised stationary, greeting cards, invitations, industrial papers like insulation paper filter paper, leather board and a score of fancy varieties for decorative wraps, lampshades, partition panels and wall paper. Value added articles like drawing blocks for art work, deckle edged stationery, letter-heads with matching envelopes, water-marked paper for certificates, greeting cards in attractive shades and designs, paper bags and certificate paper are some of the items that can be made from handmade paper.

Handmade paper has 16 times more "tearing capacity" than the ordinary variety and also looks and feels better. It is also made from banana tree waste. This has a fair amount of grey, is used in visiting and invitation cards and is a big draw in business circles. Other material include waste from jeans which is used to make carry bags and also small gift bags. Handmade paper, given its long-lasting qualities is good for various types of files. Jute and straw is also used for design on covers and papers. Following a UNDP initiative to save trees, the KVIC has taken up this programme as a special action plan and given one or two units to each State with a total of 30 across the country. There are two such units in Andhra, one near Hyderabad and the Bharat Industry located at Aganampudi in the district. The latter unit has carried out trail production and is now all set to embark on a commercial basis. There is a need for the government to extend suitable support and also ensure lack of delay in release of funds that is currently plaguing this area.

The famous Ponduru zari dhotis and sarees and the zamdari ones are a must, as are the totally handspun cotton shirt material, muslin sarees and shirts in various checks and designs from this tiny village in Srikakulam district. Also available are several forest based items like honey, tamarind, agarbattis, toilet and detergent soaps, palm leaf products like garlands, hats, trays, flower pots and artificial flowers. Home foods like masalas, cashew nuts, various kinds of pickles and several ayurvedic products including "jeevasakti" a swadeshi herbal health beverage that is a "substitute beverage for coffee and tea" are available. Also on display are marble stone powder carvings. The Etikoppaka dolls from Kailasapatnam village in Kotauratla mandal in the district are a treat.

The exhibition offers 25 per cent rebate on khadi items. It is open from 10 am to 9 am everyday and runs through March 21.


Photos: C.V. Subrahmanyam

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