Sri Lakshmi Narashima Perumal Silks, Sirumugai, Coimbatore

5 Dauntless Generations of Master Weavers!

Clothing is an indispensable factor in every human's life. Once upon a time, clothing was considered as just a covering of one's own body, but nowadays it's a reflection of one's personality. It may also be used to communicate social status, wealth, group identity and individualism. For instance, in our country most of the men and women have adopted western-style dress for daily wear, but still we see them wearing traditional outfits on special occasions, like wedding and cultural events.

When we talk about tradition, wearing sarees has been on the top of women's priority for a millennium. Sarees have not only been the symbol of tradition, but a product of the highest aesthetics; a statement for culture throughout our history. When we look back, one was supposed to weave one's own dress for one's own comfort. But the advent of machines turned the whole process into a discomfort zone. Dress has the ability to converse with our own skin; it can interact and embrace. It is thus a form of language.

Unfortunately, machines are not like men; they understand nothing but inputs. Machines can understand neither the climatic conditions of a specific region, nor the people who live there, nor the environmental, hygiene or comfort concerns. So, what would be the solution?

Handloom is the only solution that's been in practice for centuries. Now this might make you think "Impossible! We are only able to see hand looms in documentaries created in order to engender concern about Weavers.

"We've been producing 100% silk sarees only on handloom for over 5 generations, "says Mr. Pradeep, Founder of Sri Lakshmi Narashima Perumal Silks, Sirumugai, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. When we had the opportunity to observe their silk production process without using any automated machines in their whole unit, we were astounded by their love for handlooms. We have our own farm, where we could see the abundant volume of silkworm for the production of cocoons, the raw material for producing silk. Moreover, they also buy cocoons from farmers who struggle to market their own, in order to increase their production.

To speak about how this generations-long love for weaving came about, Mr Pradeep says: "Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not the one who sowed the seeds of bringing handloom into the mainstream. Here, I would like to proudly introduce my grandfather, Master Weaver Sri. Govindaraj, who is still celebrating his life after reaching his 100s.A man of self-reliance and living history. He is one of the personalities I admire the most, just as my father does. Initially 1 was fascinated when he taught me the process of weaving by hand. Furthermore, I had learnt the economical fluctuation happening in this field over a long period of time. That's the moment l decided to have my own business of handloom outfits without any changes in the heritage process. From then on, I began to learn the aesthetics on handloom under the guidance of my grandfather."

In the meantime, Pradeep had to face the dark side of the market, but he doesn't expect a sudden swell in a silent river. Here is what he says on this: "Like other businesses I too had to face insurmountable loss of which I was not aware and didn't even have any idea how to overcome. I thought of giving up the business and life too for not having the courage to face the reality. But life is not a bed of roses. We have to accept the severity that universe has to offer us.

People who don't even have a morsel of rice to feed their stomach exist. But they still have the hope of tomorrow being a better day. Yes, I confess that I didn't have the courage, but I never lost hope, many weavers switched to power loom instead of continuing handloom, to uplift their economy. But I never wanted to indulge in the process of contributing towards making the handloom obsolete. I just made myself to push the limits as long as I could, to rejuvenate my business, and at present we have around 60 handloom units solely in South India, producing 100% silk sarees!"

Mr. Pradeep has overcome impermeable barriers just by having the courage to not simply accept loss and failure, Even in his hard times, he never thought of compromising on quality. He strongly believes in weaving quality rather making exorbitant profits.

Finally, and just as importantly, it is wonderful to know about his wife, who has always been there for him. "She is the one who encouraged me not to take life too seriously. What I am right now is because of her. One always needs to have a savior to keep oneself composed, and I have my best half in that sense."

As the Master Weaver said: "Believe! Weaving is a part of life like cooking."