By Joymala Bagchi
Bankura (West Bengal), March 30 (ANI): At a distance of 47 kilometers from Bankura town, 66- year-old Bhanupada Nandi is the only tant weaver left to continue this tradition in Bonkata village where he resides with his family.
Nandi, who has three tants (handlooms), left weaving saree because of advancing age. However, he weaves 'gamcha' (local handloom towel) on a daily basis to support the family and continue with the art form.
He earns Rs 1600 for 100 pieces of Gamcha that he submits to the dealer every two months. It takes a minimum of two hours to weave two pieces of Gamcha. None of his sons wants to learn this tradition due to extremely low income.
A little ahead from Bonkata, another village named Nobanda had all the families in weaving leave this trade five years ago. Today, not a single-family is found associated with 'tant' and the wooden machines in every household are lying dismantled while being covered in dust and cobwebs.
Sitting on the village's public platform, the weavers of past years say that they were forced to leave tant only because they failed to earn the bare minimum required to provide a square meal to their family.
Mritunjay Das, who left weaving seven years ago, says, "I came into farming and managed to earn to provide food to my family. However, the pain of not weaving still lingers. If an artist won't get the chance to even touch painting brush, can he be happy?"
Sitting beside Mritunjay Das, Tarani Das -- another weaver who left weaving five years ago -- said, "Since power loom products came in the market, our condition worsened. A Gamcha made in power loom costs Rs 30 and ours costs is at least Rs 80 to 90 because we had to do everything by hand, even the threading part and it requires time. However, days have changed."
Bowing down to poverty, each and every earning member of this village shifted to other trade such as daily labour, ice-cream seller, farming while others shifted to bigger cities in order to try their luck.
Kenjakura village in Bankura -- a block which earlier had more than 300 tants -- now rests on only 60 wooden machines with only seven tant artists weaving sarees. Others have resorted to Gamcha.
Buddhadev Bit, 55, is one of the last seven saree weavers of this village. He narrates, "let me share my today's hurdle. I had to go to Sonamukhi today (a city and a municipality in the Bishnupur subdivision of the Bankura district) for which I had to wait one and a half hours for transportation before I reached Bankura. After work, while coming back, the 10th vehicle stopped and took me to Belatur. From Belatur I waited for another 40 minutes and thereafter reached Bankura. From Bankura to Kenjakura is another hassle. And this story is a routine thing in my life and have to continue with the same because neither I have the capital nor farming land."
"Moreover products made in power looms are fast and easy. Who will wait for us? We are slipping into darkness each passing day," Bit added.
However, young Rahul Das, 28, is determined to bring back the bygone glory of tant in his village. With the help of Bangla natok.com under Khadi, he has started reviving the trade.
A total of 10 tant machines were set up in the village by Khadi in which around 150 to 200 weavers started working.
"Designers said that not only Gamcha but stoles, bedcovers and innovative items that generate interest should be made. We are working on that because only weaving Gamcha won't fetch them money to eat food, forget about sending children to school."
"Government's proper intervention is absolutely required and if not done now, the trade will soon be history. More than monetary help, these people need a properly planned marketing which government should do for the survival of tant," said Das.
A weaver can weave a maximum of 10 pieces of Gamcha per day in which three to four family members' involvement is necessary. The time required is at least 14 hours.
Villages in Bankura, such as Jamtora that had 30 to 40 tant weavers, is now left with 10 tant weavers only. Gopinathpur village crawls with two to three weavers. Rajogram that had 600 tants, now rests for a maximum of 10 tants. Rangamati, Bhallukbasha have Samiti (a committee that helps them sell their products). Lokkhisagar another village has just seven to eight tants. Kalapathor village had 50 to 70 now it has only 15 to 20 weavers.
In Kenjakura, old women earn Rs six for a fistful of the thread which is required to weave. Maximum they can earn rupees 20 in a day.
The paucity of tants clearly denotes how the age-old traditional art of tant products in the Bankura district is eroding away, bowing down to poverty and hopelessness. However, the weavers who forcibly associated themselves with other trade, told ANI, "No matter which government comes, do you think anyone will think about us? Had it made any difference? Don't you think the government would have done at least something, if not for us, for this trade? We left the trade long back but the pain still lingers on, we are used to it now." (ANI)