BARPALI ( BARGARH ): FOUR visually impaired siblings of Barpali in Bargarh district weave magic with tyre tubes. Three brothers Chaitan Meher (63), Fakira Meher (60), Rabindra Meher (57) and their sister Sobhabati (54) are blind from birth.
Born to a poor weaver, their father ensured that they learn the nuance of weaving to make them financially independent. Years later, they have lived up to the expectations of their father.
The brothers eke out their living by weaving old bicycle tubes which are later used in the tie and dye process. The expertise with which Chaitan cuts the tubes lengthwise will leave any abled person awestruck. Holding one end of the tube with his teeth, he runs a half blade swiftly through it right up to his lips, risking the fragile body part. However, he has never met any accident and claims that long hours of work and passion have made them perfect.
The tube strips are used to tie yarn to colour sarees and other materials which are woven using tie and dye technique, colloquially called ‘Ghurni’.
This is not the only art the brothers trio is adept at. They also colour the yarn and can make out the colours by the feel of the containers with the help of 26 family members. They also help in removing the ‘bandha’ threads after the process.
Their sister, Sobhabati, joins one of her sisters-in-law in selling the tube strips at Jamjuri Weekly Market, perhaps the only handloom market in the region. The strips are are in huge demand among weavers, both big and small.
While Chaitan has two sons and two daughters, Fakira has one son and Rabindra has four sons and a daughter. The family weave handloom materials for others. Although the brothers’ trio get `300 each per month as handicap pension, availability of working capital would have helped their joint family weave clothes themselves and lead a financially sound life. Their house is in dire need of repairs due to lack of maintenance over the years. The little the family earns is not enough to meet their requirements other than their basic needs.