By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, April 13: Rongali Bihu in Guwahati has transformed into an urban, commercial festival which hardly seems to have any place for age-old aesthetic traditions of Assamese culture. But there are intrepid souls in the concrete jungle holding fast on to traditiol values with pride and indefatigable vigour. This breed of Guwahatians is testimony to the fact that Rongali Bihu is more a state of mind which can recreate the Bihu magic of the countryside anywhere at will.
Meet 63-year-old Renu Goswami, who had shifted to Guwahati from her village in Polashbari more than a quarter of a century back.
Among the cherished things she had brought along from her village home is a handloom. Even today she churns out colourful designer gamosas, mostly during Bihus, and gifts them to her near and dear ones.
“This time I have woven around 60 gamosas. I also made a mekhela chador and some handkerchiefs,” Goswami, presently a resident of rikolbari, says with pride. “There is nothing like a hand-woven gamosa. It’s value and appreciation from users is different, much more than those available in the market,” Goswami, wife of a retired sales tax official, says.
Her enthusiasm has never waned. “Despite her daily chores, she takes out time to sit at the loom. And she is fast too. Sometimes, it is only after she makes something that we come to know she had been on it,” exclaims her daughter, Kuntala, who is into traditiol jewelry business.
In fact, Goswami’s products have also attracted customers in the neighbourhood, though she has mostly confined her artistry to family consumption.
Like Goswami, Sushila Patowary too had been busy in her loom since the last few weeks. She has installed the loom in a small room at her city residence. “It feels nice to gift a hand-woven gamosa to loved ones during Bihu. The receiver also takes it with much more adoration and reverence. Though we live in Guwahati, I have been preparing gamosas and handkerchiefs during Bihu for years. The festival is never complete without them,” Patowary, origilly from Pathsala, said.
Women like Renu Goswami and Sushila Patowary have preserved this traditiol art of the Assamese at a time when the number of weavers in the State has gone down drastically. The shrinking number of weavers is being blamed on other money-making avenues, including schemes like MGNREGA.
Mitul Das of ‘Patghar’, a silken garments outlet in Fancy Bazar, says that the number of weavers has gone down by nearly half in the last five years. “Many xaals (looms) at Sualkuchi have closed down. This in turn has led to rising prices of the products. The prices of the locally made garments have doubled in the last five-seven years,” she said, adding, “There is a serious crisis. We take orders but sometimes we are not able to meet deadlines due to shortage of weavers.”
The gap between demand and production of locally-made silken garments has opened the door to invasion of silk garments and cheaper look-alikes from places like Varasi and Mysore.