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.
Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest
Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.
Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.
The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.
Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.
His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.
Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”
At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.
It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!
Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.
Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.
Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.