Sekar C, a weaver from Anakapathur, the cotton hub of the city, has courted fame in the last few years — from creating the first natural-fibre weaver cluster in the country to being the one to craft the organic shawl worn by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on National Handloom Day.
But though natural fibre is a rich source to his community, Sekar is worried. Because banana fiber, the most sought after raw material found in plantations around Mangadu, Thandalam and Kundrathur is now in short supply after the floods. “Floods ruined all the fibre we processed and stored for weaving,” says Sekar, who is the president of Anagaputhur Natural Fibre Cluster.
With the sole aim of creating designs from what others consider waste material, the cluster is also a largely women-led group, a rarity as far as weaver communities go. “We have 300 women and 10 men weaving sarees,” he says. “They do this by introducing all kinds of natural products with cotton, banana, coconut, pineapple, vettiver,” he lists out. But many of the plantations from where they source their material have been affected, and Sekar is left with just the more expensive option — pure cotton.
But despite organic weaving being around for only 7-8 years, Sekar doesn’t want to give it up. “There is a good demand for it, so I see no point in giving up. But we do require a help from the State government,” says the 50 year old while drying out dyed fibre. Although Central government recognition has done the niche community a world of good, Sekar frets that weavers might give up on the ideology of turning waste to wealth and give up on the techniques they have mastered in the last eight years — all because aid didn’t come soon enough.
“My dream is to take our community to the global scale, open outlets across the world,” he says sharing his vision. Explaining that there is a lot of cultural significance with fibre-clothing, he points out how countries like Japan consider this as a token of good luck and that it has even made appearance in Indian Mythology. “I can’t let it go just like that,” he adds.