The slam of the beater and the click of the heddles are in complete sync. The shush of the flying shuttle, often fashioned from dogwood, holds the weft thread. The rhythmic sound and the movement of the weaving machine involuntarily direct you to observe how different shades of yarns are interwoven with each other to craft handloom fabric. The lives of the weavers are similarly entwined with different shades of yarn. Yet, it is ironic that these multiple colours, often, fail to add colours in the lives of weavers.
It has been six decades since Murugan’s family started weaving in Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu. His father, a man in his late 70s, works dexterously on the intricate designs of the pallu in the red Kancheepuram saree. The family has been thriving on weaving for ages, and this, with much disappointment, will end with Murugan. “I do not want my son to become like me. I would like to see him with a proper job, earning a monthly salary,” he says. The beautiful fabric, in some sense, masks the untold struggles of weavers.
It was one such story during a CSR drive at Accenture that nudged Siva Devireddy to quit his job. It was in 2010, during a field trip in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, Devireddy stumbled upon the fact that there was a steady decline in the number of weavers. The reason: poor realisation for their products. He recalls how a skilled weaver narrated his predicament, “I am a weaver, I can weave. But I am not good at marketing. If the government markets our products, I can earn a fair price.”
Farmers too, face a similar problem of middlemen. “We hear of farmer suicides in India, but the condition of weavers is equally bad. It is only less heard,” he says. The reason why Devireddy chose weaving over agriculture is quite simple. Handloom products are neither perishable nor logistics-intensive, unlike agri produce. Moreover, quite a number of initiatives have already been taken in the agriculture sector either by the government or by start-ups. In the weaving sector, I