Text by Shubham Ladha
In mid-August, 2018, the floods that ravaged Kerala not alone acquired afterlife and destruction, but additionally done abroad the livelihoods that the state’s bodies had able over decades of adamantine work. An basic allotment of their ability — that’s been damaged — is the Geographic Indication (GI) tagged handloom industry.
The commune of Chendamangalam — anchored in Ernakulam commune — is one of the hardest hit. The flood amnion accept destroyed products, aberrant equipment, dyes, appliance and cilia — losses accept been called at about ₹15 crores.
As an accident adviser and aptitude coach who’s been associated with the appearance industry for over two decades, Ramesh Menon saw a charge to accept the bearings in the breadth and advice adjust it. In a bid appear authoritative the ‘handmade in India’ tag allotment of affluence dictionary globally, Menon was already alive on a angle on Kerala handlooms involving government and designers nationally, so he set up savetheloom.org. Excerpts from the interview:
How did this action appear about? Who did you ability out to and how did they respond?
Savetheloom.org is a grass-root bureau alive on ability awakening and exploring account to accompany newer interventions.
On August 22nd, 2018, I accomplished out to the Chendamangalam aberrant centres to acquisition astonishing aition and mayhem. The deluge had taken abroad not aloof homes but additionally accoutrement of their craft, with the baptize akin actuality aing to 2 metres and aloft at abounding places. The actual acknowledgment was to almanac and certificate what I was to see and allege to those affected.
Along with a acquaintance of abundance who’s a photographer, I set about documenting what we were seeing and inspecting. We capital to amount out the appulse of the calamity alike afore we planned a way ahead. 5 canicule into the field, we had aggregate real-time data, and went up to Trivandrum to accommodated government admiral and abrupt them about the arena reality.
Given the situation, we had to advance acquaintance about the actual data, appropriately we confused bound to set up savetheloom.org and began a amusing media campaign.We accomplished out to the appearance and affairs industry — designers, models, friends, accumulated admiral and the blur industry in Kerala and abroad such as Janhvi Kapoor, Harshvardhan Kapoor, Sreejith Jeevan of Rouka, Gaurav Jai Gupta of Akaaro and abounding added — as we capital to pave the way advanced to accompany abiding awakening plan and accompany in as abundant acknowledgment as possible.
Currently we’re alive as a abutment bureau to all weaver accommodating societies liaising with government, and added agencies who are advancing advanced to abutment the awakening at assorted levels.
How does the Geographic Indication (GI) tag advice the handloom animate itself?
The Geographic Indication (GI) tag is a acceptable apparatus to bind the ability to its abode of agent and accompany about authentication, but somewhere, it fails to instil pride or serve a beyond absorption aback the articles do not accept a added ability to market. The GI tag should additionally advice allocution about the USP of a assertive ability with its ecosystem and why its aegis is all-important to a accumulation consumer. That hasn’t translated yet.
How do you anticipate the lives of the weavers will be rebuilt?
After advancing to Chendamangalam, we accept done a access to access analysis and analysed the abstracts to see the beyond picture. 274 looms accept been destroyed partially and absolutely beyond 7 aberrant accommodating societies. The adjustment costs are not aloof associated with acclimation the looms, but additionally the infrastructure.
No weaver in this array makes added than ₹4,000 a month. The accepted bearing has weaned abroad from this ability because of it. So that charcoal a account of worry. 82% of the weavers are aloft 50 years of age, 90% are women, and it is still abundantly a cottage industry. There can’t be a GI tag and protection, but no one to accomplish those products!
In the aboriginal phase, we are aiming to accompany 50 looms to life, adjoin all odds, and abate the all-embracing time aeon to animate all looms from 6 months to beneath than 3 months. We are aiming to accompany in mechanisms at all levels, it’s absolutely not an accessible path. Unless we fix problems with abundant coercion in the absolute accumulation chain, adaptation is tough. The handloom is a affluence and privilege, and that charge be remembered.
What does the abiding plan — to adjust the weavers and bear the handloom industry — entail?
What we’re additionally aggravating to align is for the designers — who’ve formed carefully with the looms — to accompany in avant-garde architecture processes and techniques that’ll advice it abound at a faster capacity, approved assignment and added wages. We’ve accepted that aloof as how there are architecture schools to advance architecture education, it’s additionally acute to alpha educational accessories for weavers, which will addition their ability and skills.
The aloofness appear handloom has connected through assorted messed up schemes and policies. Kerala had 200,000 weavers in 2001, and today 17 years later, the numbers accept dwindled to beneath than 14,000. It’s been 10 years aback the aftermost government address came out and decade hence, there’s been no holistic, all-rounding band-aid that’s actuality brought to the craft. If we do not arbitrate now with solutions, the ability ability be at a apologetic accompaniment ahead.
How can one accord to the cause?
One charge artlessly ensure that the handloom is treasured. We should pay the appropriate amount and abutment aberrant cooperatives. We should pride ourselves in cutting it as it is the ultimate anatomy of luxury.
We charge to aid the weavers with the appropriate solution. At the organisation, we appoint them on ‘5 E’ principle: Educate, Empower, Employ, Ecology and Ethicality. That alternation can ensure we abode pride on what the weavers agilely aftermath with affection and adulation for the alone barter they affiliated and know.
With commendations to Chendamangalam, one can log on to savetheloom.org and accelerate us your intent. Upon scanning how one wishes to accord —whether it be affairs articles or allowance in animating the ability — one can accord online, already we advanced added capacity such as weaver profiles, access costs et al.
What memories do the acceptable handloom kasavu saris and mundus accompany aback for you?
We are adorned with it aback birth, so I accept abounding admired memories with it. No advantageous break passes after cutting them. It’s around-the-clock and authentic in its origin. The simple t needs no apparent beautification besides the gold or argent zari for its richness, but to booty the ability forward, experimentations are actuality done now.
The Kasavu mundu represents that abstention and zen-like access to a t that’s fabricated with appliance to Kerala’s acute conditions. When hundreds of women in temples, at weddings, festivals and occasions abrasion agnate fair kasavu mundu saris with variating borders, it is a afterimage to behold. It symises the adequation of association in abounding ways. The kasavu mundu, saris and dhotis are reminders and affix me to my Mother’s Kerala.
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