On a blazing summer day in Madhya Pradesh, in a small town called Chanderi, popular for hand-woven mercerized cotton sarees, life is not as mercerized for Afroza Beano. Supporting a big family consisting of her Father in law, husband and three children – two boys and a girl, her day begins at the break of dawn with a prayer to the Al-mighty. This is followed by a pile of household work be it cooking, washing, cleaning, sending off the kids to school, the list is endless. Quickly finishing the household work, she joins her husband, who is also a weaver by profession. After a long day’s work at weaving when she gets back home, there is no time to unwind as she has to get back to her world of home and kids, till she can finally retire to bed late in the night to catch on some rest before starting all over again the next morning. And this is the routine for every single day of her life. Weekends and holidays, what are they?
In fact this is the story of most women in Chanderi town where men and women alike, are engaged in weaving beautiful Chanderi sarees as it’s not just their age old family profession but also their only source of livelihood. A centuries old weaving specialty, Chanderi is known for producing finely textured fabrics of silk and cotton embellished with zari and thread work. Amongst the best known handloom clusters, Chanderi is known to be inspired by traditional designs like coin, flora art, Peacocks and geometrics, all woven into different patterns. But it was Afroza who introduced novel techniques like ‘Jhaad Pallu’, ‘Katrauaa Jaal’, ‘Jungla booti’ and ‘Naksii border’ into this traditional weave which made it more trendy and world famous today.
Considered to be the finest weaver in the entire village, Afroza is highly respected by her family for her hardwork and skill. Along with managing her house, she puts in atleast 8 hours of the day in weaving. With the support of her entire family, be it her husband Tahir Mohammad or her three children – Tariq Mohammad, Umrao Bano and Mohammad Talib – when she gets to work, Afroza doesn’t just weave a saree, she weaves magic. Yet, when asked how she is able to weave such beautiful and marvellous piece of work, she is lost for words. After giving it a thought, she says, it’s a routine job that she has been doing forever just like taking care of the kids and household.
Even while we sat there in silence waiting for some words of wisdom from her, which never came, we were left wondering how she could not appreciate her own artistic ingenuity. Shatika venerates Afroza’s tremendous service to the nation wherein she innocently safeguards the long-standing tradition, culture and history.