Think of Varanasi or Banaras and immediately mind goes to ghats along Ganga, temples, narrow lanes and of course chhach, the refreshing drink. Banaras is also famous for its silks and the weavers, who make those silk saris, living here for generations.
The tragedy in Norway unfortunately had a link to Banaras weavers but it also highlights the struggle that weavers here are going through to survive in a globalized market where cheap silk from China is being dumped in India and not much avenue to benefit from the process of globalization. Experience of Mohammad Aslam Ansari who tried to market his products overseas shows the difficulty and challenge that even tech-savvy weavers face, in the absence of any professional help.
A great book about the lives of weavers of Banaras and their culture is “jheeni jheeni beeni chadariya” a novel by Abdul Bismillah. Available here and here.
You can hear the audio recording of the excerpts from the novel read by Amit Basole who is doing research on weavers of Banaras and their economy.
Also, a video about the weavers and their briliance:
How many times? How many times they will repeat the same drill? Bomb blasts, pick up Muslims, media rushes in to declare them as “masterminds”, kill a few in “encounters” or they will die a “custodial death.” When police, media, judiciary everyone seems to be stacked up against them, what else Muslims can do except remain silent. Hence these silent marches:
Chhipa is a biradari or a community of Muslims of Gujarat. I don’t have an estimate of how many people identify themselves as Chhipa but what impress me most is that a section of them are very concerned about community issues and have set up organizations to help people of their biradari.
Chhipa Samast Jamaat Committee was established in 1938 and continue to function, which shows that tradition of helping community is very strong and continues to this day. Just look at the activities that Chhippa Jamaat is involved in – from night coaching for school students to group marriages to running a health clinic.
Chhipas get their name for their work of chhapa or dyeing that they used to do in Gujarat. Community has since moved on to other businesses and jobs but the they continue to identify themselves as Chhipa.
The tradition of social work and connection to the community is thankfully being passed on to the new generation as well. Look at this movie, Starting With Three In Chhipawad, made by and for Chhipas to raise awareness about some of the social problems that need constant reminding and some new issues like encouraging education for girls.
The movie is an amateur attempt but the story line and some of the acting is pretty good and this attempt of trying to tell their own story and engaging the community should be encouraged.
Meer Taqi Meer is a big name in Urdu poetry. In fact, he is so big that it seems people are afraid to touch him. There has been lot of work on Ghalib and Iqbal but Meer has been denied the attention that he really deserves. His brilliance is his simplicity of language and use of words that not only fit perfectly in ashaar but also the sound is also just right for the mood of that sher.