“I have always wondered why more women don’t come forward to do hand-loom weaving which is a skill meant for both men and women. Majority women handle only pre-loom works such as preparation of the yarn, tying and dying, etc. Thankfully, that was not the case for me as my husband always encouraged me to weave on the hand-loom.
I come from a small agricultural family and was married at an early age of 15. After my marriage, I moved to my husband’s place in Boodhan Pochampally town. He belonged to the weavers’ community and was a weaver. Pochampally town is known for its ikat style of hand-loom weaving but I knew nothing about it. Fortunately, with the help of my husband, I was able to learn the skill within a year and I started weaving along with my husband. It’s been more than 25 years now and I am proud to say that I am a ‘Pochampally handloom weaver.’
When my daughter was born, I took a break for few weeks and resumed work after a month. I did the same when my son was born too. My priorities were clear- I wanted to work hard and support my family so that I could provide good education to my children. But the journey was not easy. It used to take two months to complete one warp during those days and each warp had seven sarees.
Every morning, I would wake up, cook, get my children ready for school and then start weaving at home. I remember, we used to weave more than 15 hours a day to earn for a living and we would not get more than Rs.1500 – 2000 per saree. Even during the most difficult times, I never lost hope. My husband always told me, “We are traditional hand-loom weavers, we should never compromise on quality.” Those words still ring in my mind.
Things went south when my husband passed away due to a heart attack in 2012. It was an extremely difficult phase as my children were still studying and it was a crucial period for them- one that could make or break their careers. Over night, all the responsibilities fell on my shoulders but I was determined to work hard to take care of my family. I started to weave all alone and fortunately, because of the gradual increase in demand for the hand looms in our state from 2014, I started getting more work and I somehow managed to send my children to good engineering colleges. There were many sleepless nights and I would continue to work until late night to support my family. All my hard work has paid off, now my daughter is working in a reputed MNC. My son is searching for a job and I hope he settles down soon.
This year, because of the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown, everything has come to a standstill. It has certainly affected my life as a weaver too. I had no work for more than four months and the future seems bleak. Post lockdown, all the other professions are returning to normalcy, but we are still stuck in crisis. Most of the weavers in my neighborhood are shifting to other professions due to lack of orders but how could I do that!? This is a skill which I learnt from my husband and I will work as a hand-loom weaver till my last breath!”
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