THE LOOMS OF ARIVOOR
Shipping (per book) : 50
Genre : Non-Fiction
TARGET AUDIENCE: ADULTS, TEENAGERS
Pages : 120
THE LOOMS OF ARIVOOR
This novel is inspired by Sabita Radhakrishna’s work with handlooms and weavers for the past forty years. It portrays the struggle faced by traditional weavers who practise oral tradition in handloom weaving and the only skill known to them for generations.
Tilak, a retired IAS officer with his passion for textiles, is a self appointed guardian of this craft which is receding into oblivion. Textiles are a passion with him and he cannot accept the weavers drifting to industry or any other work apart from weaving. Sundari his wife, despairs of his involvement with the weaver community afraid of the consequences his support might bring. To her, Tilak’s work with them is an exercise in futility. She is an active member of a craft NGO and tries to support his ideals in her own way. Tilak takes premature retirement after his posting as a senior officer in handlooms..
Khursheed, Tilak’s first love in college marries the man of her parents’ choice and surfaces later in the novel.. as an IAS officer who is Collector in the district.
Kulasekhara a Master Weaver at Arivoor, worships Tilak, and theirs is a friendship which has survived several decades. A man who would never go against Tilak’s principles, he faces the challenge of earning a living, and resisting the overtures from the Government to form weaving Co-operatives whereby his life will be made easier. His wife Ponni raves and rants at his “sycophancy” and not being able to distinguish between high ideals and practicality. She is tormented at having to live a life of penury with low wages for weaving and practically no orders thanks to the vagaries of the shifting market.
Tilak and Sundari live in Velampatti, a suburb of Chennai, and Kulasekhara the Master Weaver and protégé of Tilak and the weaving community live in Arivoor which is midway between Chennai and Kancheepuram, a village which Tilak often visits. Tilak and Sundari have two sons who are living abroad, and one daughter Dikshita studying at a design institute in Baroda who shares Tilak’s passion for textiles. Kulasekhara has a two sons and a daughter and the eldest, Kandan breaks away from the mould by graduating in computer science. He tries to support his family in between jobs, and pride prevents his father from accepting his support. Kandan’s intentions are to help the weaver community and making them self sufficient.
The novel takes a peep at the lives of other weavers and their wives, and captures the frustrations that they face when their leader Kulasekhara, advised by Tilak, refuses to allow them to form the Government Co- operative. They get into the clutches of the village moneylender Agriculture which is the largest industry in India, is hit by natural calamities, unpredictable rain, resulting in drought whereby the farmers sink into an abyssmal debt which they cannot repay, what with high rates of interest. This results in suicides leading to
Kulaskehara succumbs to the order of the Government and forms Co-operatives where the weavers weave Janatha saris and dhothis, which are low cost clothes for distribution among the poor. Work is assured and at last normalcy returns to the village of Arivoor.
As envisaged by Tilak, the orders cave in after a year, with the accumulation of stock in the Government godowns, and the weaving of saris and dhothis are stopped without warning. .
The Looms of Arivoor portrays the disparate lives of the protagonists, and the conflict which arises for each couple in following their ideals. Shifting values, honesty, aggressiveness all play a part in the story.
The novel captures incidents fraught with tension faced by today’s craftspersons and artisans, most of them illiterate and incapable of managing their finances. A huge problem that India faces, as she watches the skilled artisans abandon their vocation to seek better paid jobs in the industry. And as a craft activist, Sabita uses her pen to create awareness of the situation, so that the public would in their own way create a sustainable livelihood for the artisan by providing a market which they badly need.
We cannot lose our precious heritage.
About the Author:
Textile activist and consultant having worked for 45 years with weavers across the country. Opened the first boutique in Chennai that was Madras.
Researched on textiles and has written Raaga of the Loom a book on the textiles of India which is awaiting publication.
Revived the weaving of Korvai Sarees in the Kancheepuram style, and headed the project of reproducing the languished Kodalli Karuppur saree woven for the royalty of Thanjavur, which is an exhibit at CERC Kalakshetra Foundation.