In Chanderi, most of the weavers are Muslims. Samaruddin Ansari and his wife Saida-Bi are fairly typical. They are part of a larger household of Ansaris, but they also do business separately. In this video, Samaruddin is telling me about a basic weaving truth. The saris are woven upside down. This may seem self-evident to some but unknown to others. He is also explaining a nice-sized room from the point of view of a weaver. “For a weaver to work, the room has to at least be 12X12 feet in dimension,” he says. “So that you can walk around the loom.”
Right next door lived a Hindu family. Their daughter, Mai, walked in and around the loom. A third family, also weavers lived next door, where a boy wove fabric.
He sat unsmiling as I walked into his home. His mother welcomed me, clad in a yellow dupatta over her head. They were Muslims, living in small household that contained a Hindu family next door. The two families shared each others looms.
This young man is weaving plain fabric that will become dresses, kurtas and dupattas. He works for ten or twenty minutes and then goes out for a spin.
Samaruddin Ansari and his wife, Saida Bi showed me this small weaver’s house. As they talked and wove, children walked in. A young girl called Mai, and another one called Sonia. The style of saree that they are weaving contains two colours: green and pink: “shot colours,” as they are called.
“I have learned that each and every piece of cloth embodies the spirit, skill, and personal history of an individual weaver. . . . It ties together with an endless thread the emotional life of my people.”