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Shawls, Mouflers, Socks!!

Sathya Saran  (click here to know more about this blogger)

Shawls, Mouflers, Socks...outlet store...

The words on the board hit my eye as we took a sharp turn on the hilly road leading from Bageshwar to Kasauni.

Maybe it was the spelling of the word Mouflers. Or the fact that there was a sudden nip in the air as we gained height, but we decided to stop and take a look. The shop was modest. Just a little room with shelves along the walls, on which were stacked neatly folded woollen things. A tea stall stood alongside, and at one end, another little shop selling local jams and fried snacks in greasy, sealed plastic packets. I did not expect much by way of excitement; most hill produced woollens have a sameness about them. They are rough, warm, and stick to well known tried and tested colours.

Yet, we were keen to see, maybe a fortnight so distanced from any kind of shop as we had been, spent in the wilderness, had sharpened our need for some retail therapy. So we demanded to be shown the wares. Surprise came first, followed by sudden greed. The mufflers, despite the fact that he who sold them could not spell them right, were amazingly soft and colorful. Greens and yellows blended in varying percentages to create happy warmth for cold necks. There were blacks, sober whites and a very schoolboyish blue, too. Spurred by what we saw we demanded shawls and stoles to be unfurled for our scrutiny. The variety was mindblowing. Rich reds nudged soft creams, some with borders, others without. My co-travelers picked up browns and reds as gifts, and I stood hesitant, wondering where I would use yet another shawl.

My heart, however, had been stolen by a cream creation. It was not a shawl but a man's full length wrap, a soft golden cream with a thin black border, warm as an embrace. It could be used as a coverlet, I was told by the shopman, who saw my hesitation and hoped to change it to a purchase. The Lohi, as it was called, was a revelation. To me it signified all that is pure in our textile traditions; simplicity, utility and just a hint of  drama in the starkness of the black border against the cream. But reason prevailed; I would not, could not carry back to a warm place like Bombay, a piece of warmer clothing, however beautifully crafted it be. Misreading my hesitation, the man turned and pulled out a pile of shawls. Richly colored, embrodered, with cheap tinsel threads working their way through the two ends that ended in tassels. I flinched at the contrast, the gaudiness of these against the poetry of the Lohi. ‘These are machine finished, we do not do the gold work here’, he explained, and showed how the knots in the tassels showed where each of the different products were produced.

I could see the ghastly future in these creations. They told me what I had seen was not a dream... the women in tiny villages wearing ugly heeled slippers, the younger girls in tights and shapelessly wrought tops wending their way to school. The long flowing gown-like dresses of the older women and the colorful cotton saris wrapped poetically around the younger women's slim bodies giving way to gaudy synthetics with loud prints... these shawls would so well finish the look, matching the opulence of what television serials had helped the village women translate as high fashion.

I turned my back determindedly in the shining borders. And told the man to put them away. I told him there was nothing quite to match the Lohi, and were it but a size smaller, I would surely carry it back home just for its sheer beauty, even if I lived bang on the equator. He smiled. And from behind the store, pulled out a plastic bag, and spilled out its contents. Wool as soft as silk, in golden and cream, with an invisible self design... the shawls were spun as sheer as a spider's web. And I, the fly, caught in it, said in a helpless voice, ‘yes, I do want this one’. Later, as he wrapped up my purchase and wrote out the bill, adding to it a pair of hand knitted, free size socks for my mother, I wandered around to find myself in the little room where on two looms stood half completed shawls. One a pure white, another a sunny yellow. I asked him where he got his wool from, and he responded that much of it was local, but some procured through the government sources from other parts of the state. Yet, it was all beautifully processed raw material, ready to be woven into soft, wearable forms. I could see the industry of the little enterprise, right in the middle of nowhere, fingers working at knitting, hands shuttling the looms or knotting tassels, and the man, standing day in day out, hoping some passer-by would stop to check out the wares his little enterprise produced.

Of such is the heart of our real clothing industry, and if tinsel and glitter and quick money spinning tricks do not mar its purity; somewhere in the middle of nowhere, such shops will sell what the real Indian loves to create and wear.
 

 
30-JUNE-2013
 
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3 Comments
 
01-JULY-2013 Sathya Saran
Definitely worth every piasa. Real fruit of the looms. Do look out for the shops all over Khumaon if u go that way.
 
 
01-JULY-2013 indrani
Beautiful piece
 
 
01-JULY-2013 anjana sharma
Thank you for sharing.
 
 
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