Together, they weave a new story of hope

Flood-ravaged looms at Chendamangalam Handloom Weavers Co-opertaive Society. The looms have been completely destroyed, rendering them useless.

Flood-ravaged looms at Chendamangalam Handloom Weavers Co-opertaive Society. The looms have been completely destroyed, rendering them useless.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Fashion designers form collective to help flood-affected weavers in Chendamangalam get back on their feet

“Maybe the floods have come for good. The sector will now resurrect and soar to heights that it would not have reached otherwise, thanks to overwhelming support from everyone,” P.A. Sojan, secretary of the Chendamangalam Kaithari Naithu Vyavasaya Production-cum-Sale Cooperative Society, said with a wry smile.

His was one of the handloom societies in Ernakulam district that suffered the worst blow in the floods, losing looms, other equipment, yarns and clothes – together making it poorer by ₹1.49 crore. The society – which has 73 individual weavers, 35 weavers at its workshop and five helpers – lost its spool sizing machine, which it had received as a grant. Mr. Sojan was feeling miserable when a Facebook post made by fashion designer Shalini James came to the aid of the society.

Soon, support began to pour in from around the world. At last count, nearly 70% of the clayey bundles of clothes found buyers, as a groundswell of support emerged.

“It was all unplanned. I realised that unless we did something urgently, their entire stocks would be lost. Hence the Facebook message, which triggered a large movement. On my first visit post-flood, I bought stocks worth ₹7.5 lakh, much more than I had planned. Altogether, stocks worth upwards of ₹40 lakh must have been cleared now,” said Ms. James, who along with designers Sreejith Jeevan, Indu Menon and Tracy Thomas, formed a Friends of Chendamangalam collective to help the weavers get back on their feet.

Purifying stocks, it turned out, was just a part of the problem. Amidst answering non-stop phone calls and briefing the media, even the international media that descended on Chendamangalam, Mr. Sojan was working out ways to get out of the chasm the society had been sucked into. “There would be takers for the stocks, but how do we repair the looms spending about ₹40,000 apiece?” he asked. “We are working on it,” said Ms. James, who is trying to get corporate patronage for the weaving community.

Damaged yarn

Meanwhile, damaged yarn worth ₹12 lakh meant for weaving clothes for government school uniforms was taken back by the government for replacing it with fresh yarns. “The process is already under way,” said K. Sudhir, Director of Handlooms and Textiles.

“Our surveyors are visiting all the 318 damaged looms and an immediate relief of ₹10,000 is being given to each weaver. They may get the looms repaired themselves or use the services of the Kerala Artisan Development Corporation (KADCO). The damage isn’t uniform. Some lost an exactor while some others lost the boiler. Of the three societies that were hit, one lost its dye house. We will come up with a suitable package after assessing the extent of damage and loss. The CSR route for support is also being explored,” he said.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 11:10:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/together-they-weave-a-new-story-of-hope/article24962971.ece

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