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A change in Nadia's jamdani weavers

Jamdani vers 2. 2

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It took Sarita Ganeriwala a while to wear down the resistance to change in Nadia's jamdani weavers. But today, weavers are the most enthusiastic partners in her design drive.

Sarita Ganeriwala is not one to be fazed by the expression: 'Hobe na'. That is precisely what the weavers in Nadia had told her when she asked them to innovate with the ancient art of jamdani. Armed with a textile degree from NIFT, Delhi, Ganeriwala was looking to push the envelope with traditional designs and weaving techniques.

She had headed for her home state - Bengal (" though I am not a Bengali" ) with its rich textile heritage and Nadia seemed a good place to start her tryst with change because she had met some craftsmen from here at the Weavers Studio. However, things didn't go as smoothly as she'd envisaged. What the Nadia weavers were doing didn't work with her fabric either.

But then she struck lucky. She found a lone 45-year-old weaver who offered to bail her out. "He was using the most simplistic, one-up-one-down technique. But, fortunately for me, he was open to ideas and when I explained what exactly I wanted with the help of graphs and illustrations, he was considerably enthused, " she says. Today, he is adept at creating complicated weaves including the basket, twill and rib using four-shaft or even six-shafts on his basic loom.

As word spread, Ganeriwala got in more weavers, block printers and dyers on board. "We have over a 100 now. And over the last five years, we've worked our way up through constant trial and error, struggling against odds like our work being copied or our weavers being lured away, " says Ganeriwala who runs a line called Karomi and recently exhibited at the Delhi Crafts Council (DCC) show 'Sarees of India 2012'. Providence is what made Sarita to saris. "I'd started out doing stoles, but I guess, the lure of the sari was too difficult to resist, " says this petite 40-year-old.

It was at a fair in Greater Noida where Ganeriwala was exhibiting her stoles that she was invited to participate in a sari exhibition organised by the DCC. "But I became a nervous wreck the moment I agreed, because I had barely five months to get at least 150-200 saris ready for a show of this stature. " But she managed, and the rest, as they say, is history. Of course, Ganeriwala also offers a range in stoles, dupattas and yardage in the "completely skill-driven " jamdani weave wherein the embroidery or the patterns are created simultaneously as the fabric is woven. Although she keeps experimenting with weaves in silk, matka and tussar, she likes to retain the "India flavour" in her work, vis-a-vis design. "I enjoy contemporarising traditional motifs like the mango, peacock, tree of life, among others. The craftsmen, always apprehensive with anything different, do manage with these but you should see how nervous they get with geometric designs - 'Yeh line aise kaise jaa sakti hai (how do we pull off this line), ' they complain, " she says.

Today, saris are picked up more for festive than everyday occasions which means that women do not mind coughing up between Rs 5000 to 13, 000 to buy Ganeriwala's saris. "People want stuff that's different in their wardrobe. And that's good news for everyone associated with this craft, " she says.

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