Delhi chugs along, caught in the vice grip of a medieval modernism. Joy and sorrow, suffering and success – stories of all kinds flow over on its streets. But the weaver, engaged in his craft in obscure parts of this city, has only sorrow to share – a primal wound visible in the sinews of his body, a deep pain reflected in his soul.
We speak of a glorious tradition of craft, whose renown goes back into antiquity, spinning its history into empires and civilisations. But the story of the men responsible for this marvel is frayed.
The fabrics that draped kings and emperors, or covered a naked fakir, are created through a complex of functions that brings together farmers, spinners, dyers, and masters who wind the warp and woof. At the end of this critical chain is the weaver, who rhythmically hammers out the intricate designs we often take for granted.
Weaving and the repetitive act of spinning, is like a series of meditative mantras, a veritable contemplation of the divine. We glimpse this in the imagery of the mystic-poet-philosopher-weaver Kabir, and in the spiritual politician Mahatma Gandhi, whose gaunt, spindly physiognomy seemed crafted to imitate the impoverished weaver.
Gandhi chose this, among the many beleaguered traditional occupations, to symbolise the struggle for self-reliance and national independence. The irony is that his choice did nothing to alleviate the distress of the Indian weaver, or to shed light on his tragedy.
Today, as leaders and elites spin yarns about a great renaissance, India’s handloom industry is dying. Across the country, the upheaval of change is casting a cruel shadow over millions of people, as men and women upholding centuries-old traditions are made redundant. Their voices are weak, unheard, and they remain powerless to alter their destiny.
Through history’s wormhole, we look at Silesia in Prussia towards the end of the 19th century. The plight of its weavers, pushed to the brink as a result of the dramatic transformations produced by the Industrial Revolution, eventually provoked an uprising. It was this revolt that led Heine to write his famous poem, The Silesian Weavers, and which inspired Gerhart Hauptmann to write his celebrated play, The Weavers.
Where thrive only shame and degradation, Where every flower’s plucked ere its bloom, And worm’s thrive in the dank rot and gloom – We’re weaving , we’re weaving!
— ‘The Silesian Weavers’, Heinrich Heine
Crucially, it was this rebellion that prompted Karl Marx to recognise the power and potential of the proletariat, and the integral linkages between economics and the state. This was a time when desperation inspired revolt, literature and a new way of looking at the world.
Here, in the heat and freeze of Delhi, not far from the seat of the nation’s final arbiters of justice and power at Raisina Hill, thousands continue to die slow deaths, quietly disappearing into the darkness. Can anyone shine a light on them?
All photographs courtesy Chitvan Gill.
This photofeature is part of an on-going project to document the state of India’s handloom industry.
Virat Kohli and Ola come together to improve Delhi's air quality
The onus of curbing air-pollution is on citizens as well
A recent study by The Lancet Journal revealed that outdoor pollution was responsible for 6% of the total disease burden in India in 2016. As a thick smog hangs low over Delhi, leaving its residents gasping for air, the pressure is on the government to implement SOS measures to curb the issue as well as introduce long-term measures to improve the air quality of the state. Other major cities like Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata should also acknowledge the gravitas of the situation.
The urgency of the air-pollution crisis in the country’s capital is being reflected on social media as well. A recent tweet by Virat Kohli, Captain of the Indian Cricket Team, urged his fans to do their bit in helping the city fight pollution. Along with the tweet, Kohli shared a video in which he emphasized that curbing pollution is everyone’s responsibility. Apart from advocating collective effort, Virat Kohli’s tweet also urged people to use buses, metros and Ola share to help reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
In the spirit of sharing the responsibility, ride sharing app Ola responded with the following tweet.
To demonstrate its commitment to fight the problem of vehicular pollution and congestion, Ola is launching #ShareWednesdays : For every new user who switches to #OlaShare in Delhi, their ride will be free. The offer by Ola that encourages people to share resources serves as an example of mobility solutions that can reduce the damage done by vehicular pollution. This is the fourth leg of Ola’s year-long campaign, #FarakPadtaHai, to raise awareness for congestion and pollution issues and encourage the uptake of shared mobility.
In 2016, WHO disclosed 10 Indian cities that made it on the list of worlds’ most polluted. The situation necessitates us to draw from experiences and best practices around the world to keep a check on air-pollution. For instance, a system of congestion fees which drivers have to pay when entering central urban areas was introduced in Singapore, Oslo and London and has been effective in reducing vehicular-pollution. The concept of “high occupancy vehicle” or car-pool lane, implemented extensively across the US, functions on the principle of moving more people in fewer cars, thereby reducing congestion. The use of public transport to reduce air-pollution is another widely accepted solution resulting in fewer vehicles on the road. Many communities across the world are embracing a culture of sustainable transportation by investing in bike lanes and maintenance of public transport. Even large corporations are doing their bit to reduce vehicular pollution. For instance, as a participant of the Voluntary Traffic Demand Management project in Beijing, Lenovo encourages its employees to adopt green commuting like biking, carpooling or even working from home. 18 companies in Sao Paulo executed a pilot program aimed at reducing congestion by helping people explore options such as staggering their hours, telecommuting or carpooling. After the pilot, drive-alone rates dropped from 45-51% to 27-35%.
It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that the growth of a country doesn’t compromise the natural environment that sustains it, however, a substantial amount of responsibility also lies on each citizen to lead an environment-friendly lifestyle. Simple lifestyle changes such as being cautious about usage of electricity, using public transport, or choosing locally sourced food can help reduce your carbon footprint, the collective impact of which is great for the environment.
Ola is committed to reducing the impact of vehicular pollution on the environment by enabling and encouraging shared rides and greener mobility. They have also created flat fare zones across Delhi-NCR on Ola Share to make more environment friendly shared rides also more pocket-friendly. To ensure a larger impact, the company also took up initiatives with City Traffic Police departments, colleges, corporate parks and metro rail stations.
Join the fight against air-pollution by using the hashtag #FarakPadtaHai and download Ola to share your next ride.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Ola and not by the Scroll editorial team.