History & Culture

The life of a weave

One of Abdullah’s designs  

“If you weave good pieces, you will get good returns, this is what I feel,” says Abdullah, whose words belie his 37 years. He is the recepient of the Sutrakar Samman Award 2017, which is presented annually by the Delhi Craft Council to a weaver for his innovation and skill

Abdullah is from Mubarakpur, a small town about 13 km from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh. Mubarakpur has been the bastion of Benares sari weaving. Over the years, it seemed to be losing its significance, but timely interventions have led to renewed interest among the weavers and consumers.

Passion for the loom

Abdullah has been weaving for over 25 years. What marks him out is his unceasing love for the loom and the willingness to learn. “Thankfully there have never been any complaints about my work. I have had long stints with master weavers who used to love my creations, I have worked independently and now I work with a SHG. I believe in my work.” His specialty is the khadua or weaving the brocaded borders and motifs for which Benarasis are known. “Khadna or khadai on the loom which is done using small attachments or tillis give that brocaded look. We have to see if the threads are uniformly drawn; they should not criss cross.”

Abdullah started weaving when he was 11; he learnt the technique from his father. His sisters would work on the brocaded pieces and he learnt from them. In a year or so, he was proficient enough to weave a sari on his own. When he was 20, he installed two hand looms in his house. “I used to buy the yarn and do my own designs. My saris had many takers.” However, when market conditions deteriorated it hit the weavers hard. Master weavers make saris for traders from Benares. Their earnings depend on what the buyer fixes. Wages for weavers are not high. “Gradually I learnt what works and what doesn’t in the market. I also mastered the technique with the help of the master weavers with whom I worked. Today I can make any pattern, if you show me the design I can replicate it,” says Abdullah, who takes immense pride in his work.

In a world, where handloom products are on the wane, meeting a weaver like Abdullah fills you with hope. Abdullah adds, “Nearly 80 per cent of the people living in Mubarakpur are dependent on weaving. So there are more weavers than there is work.”

His association with Mubarakpur Weavers, a self help group of young weavers, gave a new lease of life to his work. The group procures orders and gives it to its members. There is a system of fair wages, the group knows at what price the final product is sold. There is no arbitrary profiteering by middle men. They participate in exhibitions and directly supply to stores also. This interaction with buyers also helps them understand design trends and prices. Abdullah’s brother and his other family members also assist him in the weaving.

I ask the inevitable question, will his sons also take up this profession? He smiles, “my experience with the SHG has been good. So if this continues, there will be no regret if my sons also take it up.” As a parting shot he adds, “it is not the money that I make which is important. The buyer who wears my creation should be happy. That is my reward.”

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Printable version | Sep 14, 2021 7:04:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/the-life-of-a-weaver/article22980723.ece

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