Chendamanagalam – The warp and weft of tragedy and resilience!
The quaint little town of Chendamanagalam in Paravur Taluk, Ernakulam district is home to one of three oldest handloom centres in Kerala. Its uniqueness lies in the excellent quality of textiles, each product that is woven is a proof of the exceptional craftsmanship and deftness of Chendamangalam weavers.
In early August 2018, heavy rains lashed down on Kerela, affecting all 14 districts with 7 districts falling under category 1. The small village of Chendamangalam was ravaged by flood water leaving the centuries-old handloom industry under threat of ‘extinction’.
I had never imagined that a visit to a handloom factory would wrench my heart, leaving me speechless – a helpless spectator to the utter devastation and loss of this unit that has been standing strong for centuries. With the big festival Onam around the corner, the production of new clothes had been at its peak. Tragedy struck when the water levels reached a point that submerged the weaving units along with raw material and finished products.
The stock of finished textile products, traditional weaving instruments and a huge stock of thread and dye units was completely destroyed in the deluge. Not a single piece of cloth could be saved. All that one could see were the remnants of the beautiful pieces woven with such dexterity strewn on the verandah, wet and damaged. Each weaving unit has been completely broken into pieces.
The women working in these units obtained their sole incomes from weaving. The amount per piece fetched depended on the labour and skills invested. Depending on the pieces that the women produced she could earn between 5-10 thousand per month on an average.
Their homes destroyed and their livelihoods at stake, loss and helplessness grips the workers of the industry. With their sole source of income destroyed many weavers might be forced to move on to other sources of earning their livelihood. Although, amidst the adversity there is still hope.
“The flood, the water, the deluge cannot wash away our skills, we will rebuild the factory, we will repair the weaving units and we will start producing from scratch again.” the weavers shared with confidence.
Chendamanagalam was at once a humbling experience and one that sparked in all of us the resolve to not let this hope die out. Let’s all join forces to stand by Chendamanagalam and do what we can to help these communities rebuild their lives.