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.
As our parents grow older, our ‘adulting’ skills are tested like never before.
From answering every homework question to killing every monster under the bed, from soothing every wound with care to crushing anxiety by just the sound of their voice - parents understandably seemed like invincible, know-it-all superheroes all our childhood. It’s no wonder then that reality hits all of a sudden, the first time a parent falls and suffers a slip disc, or wears a thick pair of spectacles to read a restaurant menu - our parents are growing old, and older. It’s a slow process as our parents turn from superheroes to...human.
And just as slow to evolve are the dynamics of our relationship with them. Once upon a time, a peck on the cheek was a frequent ritual. As were handmade birthday cards every year from the artistically inclined, or declaring parents as ‘My Hero’ in school essays. Every parent-child duo could boast of an affectionate ritual - movie nights, cooking Sundays, reading favourite books together etc. The changed dynamic is indeed the most visible in the way we express our affection.
The affection is now expressed in more mature, more subtle ways - ways that mimics that of our own parents’ a lot. When did we start parenting our parents? Was it the first time we offered to foot the electricity bill, or drove them to the doctor, or dragged them along on a much-needed morning walk? Little did we know those innocent acts were but a start of a gradual role reversal.
In adulthood, children’s affection for their parents takes on a sense of responsibility. It includes everything from teaching them how to use smartphones effectively and contributing to family finances to tracking doctor’s appointments and ensuring medicine compliance. Worry and concern, though evidence of love, tend to largely replace old-fashioned patterns of affection between parents and children as the latter grow up.
It’s something that can be easily rectified, though. Start at the simplest - the old-fashioned peck on the cheek. When was the last time you gave your mom or dad a peck on the cheek like a spontaneous five-year-old - for no reason at all? Young parents can take their own children’s behaviour available as inspiration.
As young parents come to understand the responsibilities associated with caring for their parents, they also come to realise that they wouldn’t want their children to go through the same challenges. Creating a safe and secure environment for your family can help you strike a balance between the loving child in you and the caring, responsible adult that you are. A good life insurance plan can help families deal with unforeseen health crises by providing protection against financial loss. Having assurance of a measure of financial security for family can help ease financial tensions considerably, leaving you to focus on being a caring, affectionate child. Moreover,you can eliminate some of the worry for your children when they grow up – as the video below shows.
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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.