The Looms of Arivoor by Sabita Radhakrishna
Publisher: Bigfoot Publications Pvt. Ltd
Price: Rs. 149 INR(Kindle Edition)
Buy here: https://amzn.to/2VlS3rL
The Looms of Arivoor is inspired by Sabita Radhakrishna’s work with handlooms and weavers as a textile revivalist, research scholar and designer, across India for over forty years. It portrays the struggle faced by traditional weavers who practice oral tradition in handloom weaving and the only skill known to them for generations.
The Looms of Arivoor portrays the disparate lives of the protagonists, Tilak an IAS officer and Kulasekhara master weaver with high ideals, and the conflict which arises for each in following their ideals. Shifting values, honesty, aggressiveness all play a part in the story.
Sabita Radhakrishna’s passion for textiles drove her to writing a play Song of the Loom on which the story is based. The play was produced by the Madras Players a leading English theatrical group in Chennai which ran to full houses for three days.
The novel captures incidents fraught with tension faced by today’s craftspersons and artisans, most of them illiterate and incapable of managing their finances. A huge problem that India faces, as she watches the skilled artisans abandon their vocation to seek better paid jobs in the industry. And as a craft activist, Sabita uses her pen to create awareness of the situation, so that the public would in their own way create a sustainable livelihood for the artisan by providing a market which they badly need.
About the author:
Sabita Radhakrishna is a free lance writer and broadcaster and was associated with A.I.R. and Doordarshan from its inception in 1976 as programme hostess, script writer for national programmes. Sabita has scripted and done voice overs for Government and commercial documentaries. Beyond the Storm a documentary on leprosy rehabilitation scripted by Sabita won Doordarshan its first international award by TRANSTEL (West Germany) in 1986. A playwright, Sabita’s first play Under One Roof emerged after a playwrights workshop by Mahesh Dattani, and was read at British Council. Apart from small plays for children written for Doordarshan and directed by her, SONG OF THE LOOM is her first major play premiered in Chennai on March 21st, 22nd, 23rd 2008. A food, textile and humour columnist, Sabita has contributed to INBOX 1305, A La Carte magazine, and the Gymkhana Club Magazine.
Deeply committed to handloom textiles since 1972 Sabita Radhakrishna is a pioneer in the boutique concept in Chennai, and few can forget her Amrapali Boutique. Apart from three cookbooks one of which won the World Gourmand Award, Sabita’s book on the Textiles of India is under publication. It is this passion for textiles and the grave situation which exists today for handlooms and weavers that drove her to pen Song of the Loom etc etc. Her book Raaga of the Loom on Indian textiles is under publication in Delhi.
Sabita has been an active member of the Crafts Council of India. She is also Senior Consultant at Kalakshetra Foundation’s CERC (Craft Education and Research Centre). Having been deeply involved in craft for 30 years, she values her work with craftspeople and their welfare. She has been involved in loom projects for Crafts Council of India and writes extensively on craft and textiles.
Sabita regularly lectures to groups of American tourists on craft and textiles. She hosts typical South Indian meals for them and invites them to experience the “family” in her household, and talks about Indian culture and family ties, and food habits.
Sabita Radhakrishna lives in South Chennai with her husband and mother. Her son and his family live in Dubai. Her son-in-law and two grandchildren live in the same apartment building. She enjoys being wife, daughter, mom and grandmom!
She is a trustee for an educational trust…….right up to school level and for higher education.
My take on the book:
Arivoor a small village is house for families who did weaving not just as profession but as a family tradition passed on through generations. With sharp decline in demand for handloom clothes and shifting taste of people, weavers struggle to even feed their families. The only easy option for them is to form Government suggested Co-operatives to weave low cost clothes that will help generate steady income.
But Tilak Raj, a retired IAS Officer who was once in charge of these weavers from the Government side believes working for such co-operatives will kill their creativeness and only provides short-term income. Tilak’s wife Sundari who also works for an NGO prefers staying abroad with her son’s family than in this remote place for the sake of these weavers. Kulasekhar the master weaver from Arivoor considers Tilak as God and follows his guidance much to the chagrin of his wife Ponni and elder son Kandan. Between ideals, creative freedom and struggle for survival, what will the weavers ultimately choose forms the rest of the story.
The story portrays the bitter truth of the lives led by artisans who are extremely skilled but are caught in professions which are no longer profitable. Along with weaving and the lives of these craftsman, the story is a beautiful portrayal of village living. The simple things part of rural living is captured brilliantly by the author. Along with the main story, the author takes time to build the back stories of each of the main characters and if the reader wonders the significance of a certain character, they are all tied together into the story towards the end. Though the story is majorly centered around male characters, the author makes sure to have equal footage for the female characters thus balancing the narration and providing their P.O.V in all matters of importance.
Since the author works closely with textiles and crafts, she brings authenticity to the story, and instead of putting out a plain documentary of weavers, a fictitious story is developed to indulge the reader. All the main characters have a wonderful graph and strong characterization; even the secondary characters have a strong presence. The pace of narration could have been better as the story drags at places; since the story is close to reality some parts are grim and heartbreaking.
With the story and characters close to reality, this is one story everyone needs to read to understand the plight of artisans in a wholesome manner.