CHIKANKARI MADE history on Sunday when over a thousand chikansaaz (chikan artisans) sat together giving expression to this centuries old craft at the Scientific Convetion Centre’s massive first floor lobby.
There was hardly had any space to even walk, so big was the crowd, with artisans coming in from all directions— from Mall, Malihabad, Kakori, Sitapur, Malhaur and Lucknow.
If the youngest artisan was 8 years old, the oldest was 80.
In the first ever Chikan Mahotsav, two worlds were showcased —one of the craft itself and the other of merchandise.
If merchandise (on the ramp) dazzled everybody, the needle-thread artistry effected through cataract eyes narrated the story of creativity and exploitation.
This actually was a chikankari workshop-cum-competition. Also, there were two fashion shows in which models walked the ramp wearing chikan stuff.
The mahotsav was organised as an endeavour to bring in big fashion houses, fashion stores, designers, and export houses of the country face to face with Lucknow chikan artisans, manufactures and retailers, upcoming fashion designers and students of fashion designing institutes under one roof.
And though Chikan clothes carried the prospects of getting into hi-fashion mode, the condition of the chikansaaz looked grim.
Aamna, 75 who has been practising the art since she was 8 years of age, said, “I have never been able to prosper in this art. But the people who sold my work now live in mahals. Chikankari has only given me two square meals a day. Now my great granddaughter is practising the art and she is paid less than what I was paid in my times.” Aamna was operated for cataract a month back.
Her sister-in-law Zameela said, “The competition in the market has increased and there are many more people who have jumped into the fray, resulting in a problem of plenty for us. Now if we demand a little more money, the middlemen refuses to give us work and passes on the work to those who are ready to do it at a lower price.”
Anisha Khatoon from Malihabad said, “I have been at it for 10 years now. I work at a chikankari centre in Malihabad from 9 am to 5 pm and I am paid Rs 500 a month.” She said around 40-50 women worked in the centre and if the women demanded for a hike in salary, the owner threatened to sack them and get a fresh lot of women at the centre. “There are many awaiting to get into the centre and we know the threat is real.”
Akhtar Jahan had some interesting details to share. “What happens at times is that we get to make ten pieces of a similar item. Now, if the middleman finds even one piece less perfect or defective, he rejects the piece and recovers the cost of the cloth of that piece from us, which in turn means that the wages earned by making nine pieces is gone,” she said.
Dara Nawab Educational & Welfare Society, the Royal Family of Avadh and Mahfil (a socio-cultural organisation) are organising this fest.