Handicrafts in India form a major source of income to the rural segment of our society. The income is meager but aspirations high. I came to realize the importance of handiwork on my last visit to Sambal, a tiny district close to a small Uttar Pradesh town of Muradabaad.
Muradabaad is primarily famous for its brass work but a lot of small crafts like “dari” (rug) making, zari work, block printing co-exist in its shadow. One such craft cluster I saw was dari making, an art where rugs are woven on a loom like, locally made machine. The material used is strips of wasted cloth or seconds blankets from Ludhiana factories.
What struck me about this place was its people and the conditions they worked under. A tiny courtyard is occupied by the loom, the cloth strips, a cooking area with utensils, domestic animals such as goats and chicken and last but not the least, a tiny cot. The artisans play loud music while working to maintain focus and are able to complete 3-4 rugs in a day.
On speaking to them about the hardships they faced while cultivating the crafts, they poured their hearts out. I was told how these poor and most of the times illiterate people were cheated by giving them huge orders and then later deceived for all the hard work put in by them. Lack of working capital forced them to borrow money at huge interest rates by pawning whatever little they had and after the production was complete, a dozen quality issues cropped up and the inspector refused to take the stock. These men were then forced to sell it off at the price desired by the buyer for the fear of hoarding stock. These craftsmen earn barely a rupee or two per piece and are even content with that.. I couldn’t believe that people could be so merciless and deprive these uneducated men of even their due share.
These artisans who are engineers, designers and pillars of a diminishing craft are dying a slow death and no one is paying heed to them. A little motivation, support and encouragement can go a long way. I am trying to do my bit and pray that the Government tries to do theirs before its too late..