The second wave of Covid showcased Indians from all walks of life supporting each other tirelessly. One of the communities which took a damaging hit was the Weavers’ Community. It is not just their families which were affected, but also the extended ecosystem of people they work with. In order to help them six Indian women from across the globe joined hands and formed 'Resource Helpline Bridge for Weavers.'
These weavers from across India, who have won various awards have joined the initiative. They have onboarded -Banarsi weavers, Kota weavers, Bagru handblock, Chikankari craftsmen from Uttar Pradesh, Maheshwari weavers from Madhya Pradesh, Chanderi weavers, and a Pochampally weaver from Andhra Pradesh. The product quality is minutely vetted by the team, before onboarding the weaver.
The 'Resource Helpline Bridge for Weavers' directly connects the patrons with the weavers. The SOP of this bridge is simple: the volunteers do the hard task of vetting people who are willing to support, by asking them their minimum committed budget and choice of textile. They ask them to transfer the payment immediately to the weaver after finalizing the purchase. Strictly refraining them from bargaining for maintaining the creative dignity of these craftspeople. Finally, the contact details of these craftspeople are handed out to the patrons.
As most of the weavers don’t speak English fluently or Hindi too in some cases, thus the buyers are informed in advance about the language preference. The patrons connect through WhatsApp by leaving voice notes or messages. Direct calling is avoided, to ensure the weaver's time is not wasted.
The short-term goal of this bridge is to make the craftspeople economically secure enough to see them through the worst of this crisis. Whereas in the long run, they want to train them on technological logistics, what this bridge SOP entails, and how it works.
They would be soon starting workshops to carry out this knowledge and learning transfer.
Talish Ray the originator behind the idea of the Bridge said, “We are not talking about one single weaver here. They are much like a commune, roughly about fifteen people (and their families) depend upon each master craftsperson, and support with associated tasks. In return, the master artists too support them with money and food. It is our heartfelt desire to aid these handfuls of master craftpersons. We are getting a good response from the patrons based in India and abroad.”
The beginning was tough, where these master craftsmen were suspicious about their intention. “Most of these master weavers have come up the hard way; they have been exploited and therefore, the essential step was to establish trust. Trust that they will not be scammed; their craft, their abilities, will be treated with respect; and a genuine reward for their efforts, without the indignity of haggling. They were wary of us as to why we were helping them for free? It took us some time to convince them about this social initiative. It is our way to give back to the country and we are not looking at monetary benefits.” said Ray.
Since its inception in early May, the initiative has clocked revenue of more than Rs 70 lakh and is eyeing Rs 1 crore by the end of this month. Almost 400 buyers have purchased from the weavers and many of them have turned out to be repeat buyers. The bridge has saved many weavers from entering the debt trap and also from local money lenders.
The core group of volunteers comprises of Talish Ray (a Delhi-based lawyer) Meenakshi Vashisht (heritage specialist), Mani Tripathi (homemaker from Lucknow), Namrata Varma Kaul (real estate professional living in Singapore), and Shruti Mathur (IT consultant living in Melbourne).
The volunteers’ hope they will be able to help create a pool of genuine patrons for each of these craftspeople, who will continue to promote them. This intangible cultural heritage which is threatened by the Pandemic can be saved with the combined efforts of everyone.
First Published: IST