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This techie gives a leg up to Chennimalai weavers
To revive and bring together the declining handloom weavers, Sivagurunathan C quit his high-paying job, learned how to weave handlooms, and set up a body called Nurpu Handloom Weaving Society to create job opportunities for the weaving community.
Even while working in an IT sector in Bengaluru, Sivagurunathan’s mind was constantly in search of finding ways to revive the weaving business in Tamil Nadu. The 32-year-old was deeply impressed by the activities done by Cuckoo Forest School, Puliyanur, and got in touch with the founder Siva Raj. The duo discussed the importance of living close to nature and why it should be propagated. After a couple of meetings, Sivagurunathan decided to quit his job to revive and bring together handloom weavers.
He travelled across the state to learn the new techniques in weaving. In Melkote, Mysuru, he met a Gandhian and a promoter of khadi movement, Surendra Koulagi. They discussed the need to promote handwoven khadi and thereby supporting families of weavers.
Sivagurunathan started weaving handlooms and later set up a body called Nurpu Handloom Weaving Society and hired six families from Chennimalai to weave for him. Near to Chennimalai, there is a quaint little neighbourhood called 1010 Colony. “It gets its name from the 1010 houses which were built solely for weavers. Their traditional occupation was weaving. The hands that had once known only the smell of cotton and starch have seen their lives change before their eyes. The intervention of globalisation in their lives pushed them to abandon their livelihood and take up some other profession. Today, out of 1010 houses of handloom weavers, only 25 to 30 weavers continue to do so. In the last 20 years, the entire colony has changed its livelihood and moved far away from its traditional occupation,” he says.
He remembers that there was a beautiful barter system of love that existed among the community. The farmers would share their harvest with their weaver neighbours and in turn receive handwoven bedsheets and sarees. “Now, the farmers changed their ways of farming. Instead of food crops, it is cash crops (such as sugarcane and tobacco) that they prefer. The first link to the chain of handloom weaving got broken here itself. Our change in preference of machine-made linen and clothes of other fabric to hand-woven clothes for use is the reason why these people have been forced to abandon their traditional occupation,” rues the weaver.
Through Nurpu Handloom Weaving Society, the young weaver aims to procure organic cotton, use natural dyes and weave it to khadi saris, dupattas, veshtis and towels. “Nurpu was the beginning to the end of our search for sustainable living. We not only satisfy our needs for sustainable living but also create job opportunities for the weaving community from rural surroundings. I have seen and experienced the happenings of the corporate world for the past 11 years. I have seen it feeding people their ego; something that unconsciously becomes a part of our lives. In the near future, I also plan to teach weaving to the next generation,” Sivagurunathan remarks.