Thirty two year old Rajib Debnath is literally swimming against the tide. Though he can speak English fluently, he chooses to speak in Hindi, wears hand-woven clothes, and gave up his job at a reputed company to become a weaver.
Rajib, whose father, Jyotish Debnath, is an award-winning weaver, says, “Weaving runs in my blood. Normally, muslin and Jamdhani are woven separately but we have incorporated both together and come up with our own styles. I have tried to recreate traditional motifs in my weaving.”
Rajib, who with his father runs Bhuvaneshwari Textiles in Burdwan District, was in the city as part of The Registry of Sarees’ Discover Cotton event. It featured organic saris by Ethicus and muslin jamdani by Rajib.
Rajib explained the various processes of weaving — right from selecting cotton, the kind of spinning wheel used to the thread count that goes into making of each style of fabric. He then spoke about the challenges of a weaver. “He has to know every part of his job, including assembling the spinning wheel. The older generation weavers do not depend on computers for designs nor calculators for thread count. They are great masters and can weave your face on the fabric while talking to you!” adds the young man who, tired of his father’s struggles, educated himself and took up a job in Hyderabad.
“My heart was not in my job. I quit and returned home. I used my knowledge and marketing skills to help better the lives of weavers. Earlier there was a lack of order and we had many weavers, now the situation is vice versa. We have orders coming in from Japan and Europe, but there is a dearth of weavers. If we as a society do not join hands to do something constructive for them, this art will soon die.”
Life was not easy when he went back home either. “For three years I was jobless. I spent time with weavers. They would sleep in leaking homes on a mud floor. Some would walk for five to 10 kms looking for a job. Every weaver I met wanted his child to become a doctor or an engineer. No one was willing to teach their child weaving. That is when the brain storm happened. I decided to better their lives, help them get jobs and train the next generation weavers to keep this art alive. We support their child’s education, take care of their health and provide free treatment. Now we see a small rise in the number of weavers but it is not enough.” Rajib did not need any training in weaving as “I imbibed the technique by just being with my father. I grew up playing with the spinning wheel and natural dyes.” Having worked with his father for 15 years, the young weaver says that he gets ample opportunity to work with renowned designers from across the globe, but, “I am such a rural man at heart that I can not let go of the traditional motifs.” Many of his designs are an effort to revive ancient designs and motifs.
To popularise weaving and the weaver’s plight, Rajib and his team are willing to train anyone in weaving for free. “They have to take care of their stay and food and we will train them for free. It is open to anyone. Our lives are simple and we will not be able to provide luxury but assure you an abundance of knowledge,” smiles the man. He adds that one needs a week to six months to learn the basics. “After that learning is a life long process.”
When he looks back he adds that he does not regret giving up his lucrative job, but loves his role in weaving dreams, hope and aspirations in every weaver’s life.
Rajib can be contacted on 7890637978.