Pranpur is a small town in Madhya Pradesh, borrowing its identity from Chanderi, a place best known for its silks and saris. Being a weavers’ hub, the team felt it was most appropriate for an offsite destination, where along with connecting with the team, we would also get the opportunity to meet the beneficiaries of the work that we do from our city office.
We reached Lalitpur (the closest station) at some unearthly hour in the night, only to undergo a bumpy, to say the least, journey for the next 45 minutes, to reach our final destination. We were staying at the Amraee guesthouse, our home for the next three days. A home keeper, a little kitchen, a small conference room and even an exclusive parking lot, the place was wholesome in itself. With all the exhaustion from the journey, we slept peacefully through the night, excited about what the next few days had in store for us.
The mornings in Pranpur were beautiful, peaceful and serene, away from the city noise and chaos. We took advantage of these mornings by starting our days with early morning meditation sessions, forcing us to introspect and think about things that are often taken for granted back home. These sessions became even more enjoyable, when accompanied with local Bundelkhandi breakfast. Truly fulfilling! We would then quickly complete our morning work sessions, which would typically go on till about 3 or 4 in the evening, only to pack our bags and get ready for weaver visits in the later half of the evenings.
Chanderi has over 3500 active pit looms occupying a source of pride in every weaver’s home. Walk into any neighborhood in Chanderi or Pranpur and you will find looms and weavers in every corner, in their homes and on the streets, all weaving beautiful sarees with their delicate hands. We had the opportunity to visit a couple of weaver cooperatives as well, institutions that have been built over time to cater to the needs of the town people. One such cooperative was the Bunkar Vikas Samiti, an organization that started off by bringing weavers together to pool in money that would be used as capital for establishing a weaver cooperative. The cooperative is one of the largest in Chanderi at the moment, of which the weavers have a shareholding, and are now also supplying to large retailers in the city.
There were some fascinating stories that came out of our visit to Chanderi. One of them gets a special mention on our blog and you’ll soon know why.
While going through some of the signature pieces at one of the weaver cooperatives, we were shown this beautiful pink saree with a lovely motif on the palla. On inquiring about it, we were told that the piece was an exclusive one, famously known as the ‘kareena saree’ (No brownie points for guessing why J). We soon realized that the particular saree was identified with this name all over Chanderi and weavers were churning these out in numbers and in different colors, because its demand had suddenly shot up. Now that’s true star power!
We were also fortunate to meet and interact with one of the National Award winners at Chanderi. The weaver was more than a 100 years old and lived content in a tiny shed with his wife. Their humility was heartening, as they welcomed us into their homes as though we were one of their own. We asked him to show us one of the pieces that had made in his time, to which his response was “khuch nahi rakha.. sab de diya” (I don’t have a single piece. I have given it all). It was truly humbling to see the extent of his contentment, where he didn’t feel the need to own even one of his prized pieces. It was his work that made him content.
We would have all liked to stay for much longer, but it was time to go back and put a lot of what was discussed on the white board, to action. It was time to reflect on the experiences we had with the weavers, and use them as endorsements for the cause that we all work so hard for, back at home. It was time to ‘weave’ our own little journeys in the organization, as we try to find ourselves through these artisans.