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Lancha Umarshi Ravjibhai

Interview Summary

Lancha Umarshi was born and brought up at Bhujodi, but, some generations ago his forefathers lived in a village call Farai in Bhachau Taluka. He has worked with Shamjibhai as a weaver for the last four or five years. Lancha believes that it is possible to learn weaving in in just twelve months’ time if one is committed to the craft. Further, he firmly believes that weaving is so demanding that the mind should be focussed and stress-free while weaving. He stresses that weavers should work in a calm and composed manner. There are four looms in Shamjibhai’s sprawling and airy workshop, with the weavers each having their own particular loom. Though the weavers interchange whenever required, it disturbs the rhythm of Lancha’s work, and in his words, it is like ‘driving some other person’s car’. This is because each weaver has his own settings for working on their individual loom. Most of the preparation work before final weaving on the loom is completed by women. In Lancha’s case, he can complete four pieces in a day provided he is concentrating fully on the work. When the weaving is in process on the loom, a long thin stick is used to fix the design, tighten the weave and keep the cloth straight. These looms operate with a four-peddle system. After completing a piece with a lath (i.e.a kind of final stroke) design, a new piece can be started.

Lancha Umarshi is a highly skilled weaver and he is very knowledgeable about many details of the weaving art. He explained the meanings of weft (tanu) and warp (vanu) and talked about meri, a design used to increase the durability of the woven fabric at the edges of a piece. The weavers have developed a good sense of colour combinations. Some colours, such as red and black, are more commonly used than others.

Lancha, like his fellow weavers, earns around 150 rupees per day. If he works for 1 ½ hours extra he is paid forty rupees more. He usually eats plain and simple food like roti and cooked vegetables, but at times eats out for a change. For him, buying any luxury items or even something as simple as a bike is only a remote possibility as Lancha’s limited earnings are just enough to maintain his household. Starting his own enterprise remains Lancha’s dream. He has seen fashion shows organised by Kalaraksha and is keen to learn more about design and marketing from the NGO.

In his family, his two sisters are married and his elder brother is also a weaver, working for the same employer, Shamjibhai. His parents were once weavers, but left the craft. Lancha feels that after a certain age the capacity to weave well decreases, as it is very laborious process. The older one gets, the more productivity is compromised.

Lancha and his fellow workers report to work at 7.30 am and begin with a prayer and chant Hanuman Chalisa. Thereafter, they light a diya (candle), offer flowers to their God, and then commence their work. At 11 am, they take a tea break and at 1 pm, take lunch. Lancha goes home to eat and returns at 2. At 4 pm they break again for tea and stop working at 6 or 6.30. All the workers get on well with their employer. He sometimes tells them off if something work-related is not quite right, but Lancha emphasises that it is usually nothing personal! Lancha has accompanied Shamjibhai to exhibitions at Delhi and other places.