Driven by penury, Lucknow’s zardozi workers run e-rickshaws
The condition of artisans is getting from bad to worse.Involved in zari and zardozi work for generations, Chandu Ali, 40, has now quit his family profession and runs an e-rickshaw in old Lucknow. Low wages, less work and poverty made Chandu switch his job.lucknow Updated: Jul 07, 2017 12:23 IST
The hands that once created beautiful designs on clothes with gold and silver threads are ferrying people on e-rickshaws these days braving harsh weather conditions.
But life is still better for these former zardozi workers as they are now able to make both ends meet.
Involved in zari and zardozi work for generations, Chandu Ali, 40, has now quit his family profession and runs an e-rickshaw in old city. Low wages, less work and poverty made Chandu switch his job.
“Zardozi was in my blood. My entire family was involved in embroidery for generations. I too had mastered the art form during my childhood. However, the condition of artisans is getting from bad to worse. Day long work wouldn’t ensure more than Rs 100-125 which is too little to feed the family,” says Chandu, father of three.
And Chandu isn’t alone. A number of workers known for their skill are pulling rickshaws and doing other menial jobs.
“Skill is the gift of Allah and we were the blessed ones to have it. I was known for neatness in my work and worked on lehengas and heavy embroidered sarees that were sold in big showrooms. Our works sold for thousands of rupees but we were paid only Rs 100-150 per day which was too meagre,” another artisan Jawed says.
When e-rickshaws were introduced in Lucknow a couple of years ago, artisans like Jawed took up driving. “I now earn a minimum of Rs 500-600 per day. My children are enrolled in a private school,” he says.
Jawed, however, never misses an opportunity to take tourists to the bylanes and show them ‘zardozi addas’ where artisans work under dim light and poor conditions.
“More artisans are quitting and the art would die a slow death one day. I often take tourists on my rickshaw to show them the reality of zardozi artisans with the hope that one day someone would change their fate,” Jawed says.
Like zardozi workers, people skilled in making murri and aari motifs of chikankari are also joining the profession.
Sachin Mehrotra, a commerce graduate and a chikankari artisan, used to display his works in exhibitions across the country. A registered handicraft artist in Barabanki, Sachin would often display his works at Delhi Haat.
“It is more than a year now that I am driving e-rickshaw. My father was also a chikankari worker as is ill and old now. He couldn’t accept me driving a rickshaw and showed me the door. I live separately with my wife and son now,” says Sachin.
Injustice to artisans is what made him quit chikankari. “We may speak highly about handicraft but the reality is that artisans never get respect and money. I incurred losses when a fire broke out at Delhi Haat. The government promised compensation but we did not get anything. I did not have money to begin work afresh and thus decided to drive a rickshaw,” he says.
Ali Agha, spokesman of an association of zardozi workers, said, “The day is not far when there wouldn’t be any artisans left. Those involved in embroidery for generations are quitting and do not want their children to learn zardozi. Growing popularity of machine work and unfair remuneration for hard work is killing the artisans.”