My cousin’s grandparents were a unique couple. They never made a property of their own. Got both daughters happily married. Globe trotted after retirement and had interesting stories of each country to keep us kids entertained. Aaji and Abba as we called them; collected beautiful souvenirs and miniature alcohol bottles from around the world which particularly kept me interested whenever I visited them as a kid. Well in advance they had decided to donate their body once lifeless. This inspired my grandparents to do the same and be of use to the world until the last bit of oneself remains. To be honest, this inspiration has seeped in me as well. Their planning was so apt that they had even decided where one will live once one of them passes away. Abba passed away and Aaji went to live rest of her life with fellow aajis and abbas at an old age home in Panvel called Shantivan. Aaji lived there for more than 4 years before she said the final goodbye.
My cousin used to visit her and always told me about how beautiful that place is and about various activities that are carried out in that surrounding apart from the old age home. Fortunately I happened to visit Shantivan this spring and had a wonderful experience, one of which was dhurrie weaving carried out by leprosy patients.Many years ago when leprosy was treated as stigma, this rehabilitation centre was set up based on the Gandhian philosophy of Swavalamban and labour of love. Leprosy patients are trained to weave dhurries so that they can earn a self-living with dignity. Today very few patients work here but the concept, vigour and work they produce are awe-inspiring.
These are cotton flat weave dhurries woven on basic floor looms using a punja. Most of the dhurries are made to order in customized sizes and colors. Dyed yarn is sourced from Bhivandi and Solapur – two of the biggest cotton weaving centres of Maharashtra. Basic kilim motifs are woven at regular repeats. What is more beautiful is the weaving of letters to make customised names as per order.
My abba has such a dhurrie with his name woven on it. He says it was made in Madras before I was born, which means it is more than 31 years old. I always believe textiles are such beautiful treasurers of myriad stories. I have treasured some beautiful pieces of textiles that my aaji has handmade - smell, texture and colors of which have countless memories stitched on to them.