You don’t need money to help the less fortunate. All you need is to want to do so and the drive to make it happen. Just ask Gopinathan.
A man of humble beginnings, Gopinathan was the seventh of 10 children born to a weaver. His family was so poor that two meals a day were a luxury. But the stark poverty not only drove him to make something of himself but also to help others. At the age of 11, he left home in search of his fortune. During his wandering days, he came across many weavers and visited handloom centres across the country. The art fascinated him and he soon decided this was where his vocation lay.
Having mastered the art, he returned to his village to help the womenfolk. He gave them a small plot of land and taught them to weave. His hard work saw the formation of a Mahila Samajam of self-reliant women. Then came a loom cluster in Manjavilakom village, 37 kilometres from here. Once a backward area, the place is now bustling with activity. In the process, Gopinathan infused life into the handloom industry that was gasping for breath and changed the face of at least a dozen backward villages. Thanks to him, 2,000 people make a decent living today.
“All of them are my children. Besides professional help, they share their personal problems with me,” he says, pointing to a group of women weaving mundus (wraparound skirts). His bony 60-year-old frame in its trademark unbuttoned shirt is everywhere, setting up a loom here, checking the dye there. “I always tell them there is no shortcut to success.”
Gopinathan now has his eyes on the nearby Adivasi settlements and has drawn up plans to set up a unit in Amboori, one of the most backward tribal settlements in the district. He has also received invitations from Kanpur and Hyderabad to help weavers there.
For all his hard work, the nation honoured him with a Padmashree this year. But the ever humble Gopinathan says: “I am not after honours. They come and go. I want to wipe the tears of as many as I can.”