fix the clock ( a naive idea- 3 )

i remember reading somewhere, the number of handlooms in india, in early nineteenth century was around 20 lakhs. now, it's 38 lakhs. the number of handlooms in the u.k., in early nineteenth century was around 2 lakhs. now it's just a couple of hundreds or so.

india is a living museum, thanks to the large presence, despite their small number, of committed aesthetes in the population:
"I know that the ultimate weapon in my kitty is the sari... This Sunday I have taken down my Ikat, Chanderi, Puneri, Laheriya, Bandhej, Bomkai, Gadwal, Narayanpet , Maheshwari, Kantha and Kanjeevaram saris and stroked them in the reflecting sunlight." (I guarantee no man would ever think of doing anything similar with his dhoti collection.) And Sindhu Sheth wrote that she would heed my appeal: "I have decided to wear a sari (instead of my regular churidar-kurta) — once a week, to begin with." In that "to begin with" lies the hope that my column will not have been entirely in vain....
would you be able to digest the sight of 8 out of every 10 indians living on less than a dollar a day if more than half of them weren't wrapped in saris, mr.tharoor seems to say. how many of the women who work on turning out Ikat, Chanderi, Puneri, Laheriya, Bandhej, Bomkai, Gadwal, Narayanpet , Maheshwari, Kantha and Kanjeevaram and other fine material can actually afford those saris? the average life expectancy of some weavers in some of those towns those products come from has gone down to around 50 years in recent times, according to some news reports.

the sari is the ultimate weapon in the kitty of a lot of people: it helps wrap up a lot of freedoms, drive everything unseemly into purdah. wrap women in ikat, chanderi, puneri etc., and tie up the lower castes in the production of ikat, chanderi, puneri etc., for the parivar the sari has totemic significance, refined sensibilties are congressi liberal tharoor's excuse. mr.tharoor and the rss top brass might prescribe the sari as essential hindu-fashionwear for women, but would they suggest weaving as a career for their children? or fishing? scavenging? tanning? toddy tapping?

seventy percent of indians have little or no basic reading/writing skills. and almost all of them belong to the lower castes, but no one involved in policy-making ever acknowledges the fact that almost all of them belong to the lower castes- euphemisms such as the poor, people below the poverty line etc., serve as effective purdahs. researchers go to great lengths to take the sectarian sting out of the truth, to purify bad statistics with good taste. 80% of india lives on less than a dollar a day. what does that tell you? nothing.

does it tell you that we've double the number of handlooms as we did 200 years ago? that we've many times more fishermen (as a proportion of the population), using almost the same equipment, than we did 200 years ago? that we probably have more rat catchers and tanners and scavengers than 200 years ago?

most of india stands where it was 200 years ago. while a small section of indians turn to the newest professions: from international diplomats to fashion designers, programmers to pilots, astronauts to brewers. that the number of handlooms in india has actually doubled in the last 200 years is a more damning statistic for me than the bald figure that 80% of indians live on less than a dollar a day. the former seems to suggest almost a huge break in social evolution, while the latter wants you to look away. shouldn't someone talk about this during this elections? shouldn't indian politics be about restarting the process of evolution for those stranded in a different age?


Smoke Screen said...

I wonder which is the lesser evil: Pepe jeans or Pochampalli silks. Or are such comparisons unquantifiable?

Anonymous said...

why don't you take up scavenging instead of sitting in your air conditioned room and blogging your conspiracy theories.
The 80% of people if they are so poor should take up responsibility to raise themselves and above all they should stop breeding like rats. Just screaming hoarse about someone exploiting them will take them no where. Most of the upper class / caste (yu like caste so much) people breed less because they understand the value of living and are generally trained to covet resources to support their dignified lifestyles. This is true of upper class all over the world.
Last I heard most of the politicians in India were from the so called lower castes - lalloo, mayavathi, mulayam et all. What the hell have they been doing. Read George orwell's animal farm man. get some sense into your brain which spins like a broken record.

anu said...

Every other well-healed woman in the US is sporting scarves with the paisley design (bad imitations of the Indian original), with a little label tucked in saying made in china. Costs 10-15 dollars a piece. Any of these weaves listed here could be beautifully adapted for the same, for a global aesthete, maybe?

We have ideas that exist in isolation, somebody identified a small niche of Indian women that keeps these looms functioning, and as you rightly point, left it at that. The idea if extended, to more than this limited set of buyers and more than just the sari (quilts, bedspreads, part of furnishing fabrics), would have led to innovation instead of doubling of the looms.

It is impossible to innovate when one is on subsistence. Letting ideas work in isolation contributes to India being a living museum. The elite Indian women are probably paying designer prices from designer stores for these products. Greed and shortsightedness keeps the skilled worker from earning his rightful money…

After the thrashing tharoor got for his first sari column, he wrote another one? I wonder if any woman from China or Japan read his first –they would die laughing. :)

kuffir said...


'I wonder which is the lesser evil: Pepe jeans or Pochampalli silks.'

this why i like to blog- you've put much more into a single line than several pages of scholarly research.


'It is impossible to innovate when one is on subsistence.'

exactly. i think that's why one shouldn't look at the underprivileged and the vulnerable in the west and in india through the same prism. as i said in an earlier post, unless poverty in india is brought *up* to human levels, we can't really begin to talk of *eliminating* it.

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