“वो सुनते हैं न कि कभी ड्रैगन था , उसी तरह होगा कि कभी ज़रदोज़ी थी। एक दिन वह आएगा कि हमको किसी मंदिर या दरगाह में भीख मांगनी पड़ेगी।” ,says nazir. Coming such words from the finest zardoz in old Lucknow is heart-wrecking. Unfortunately, not only zardozi but chikankari, handblock printing, chanderi, many other heritage craftsmen, and weavers are on the verge of extinction because direct selling has become an idea of the bygone era when they thrived upon catering to local markets. Today big brands have hijacked our buying behavior and made us believed that buying quality fabric, getting it dyed, embroidered, or stitched is a waste of time; while totally ignoring the time and energy consumed while visiting a mall or shopping online. We are presented with enormous ready-made options at highly discounted prices and not only this, we are fed the idea of how after every 2-3 months we need a different style of clothing in our wardrobe. This concept is known as fast fashion. These clothes are low in quality and intentionally designed in a way that consumers will keep on buying new ones and discarding old ones frequently. And after cluttering your wardrobe and mind these clothes will eventually land up in landfills creating havoc for the environment. Data says, with each second that passes by, a truck full of textiles is dumped into a landfill.
Ironically, the same brands charge an exorbitant amount preaching sustainability, a concept that comes naturally to us. Remember when we used to buy new clothes only on special occasions or seasons, handled them with care, and passed them on to our siblings and cousins, the very reason being the clothes were good quality with timeless designs and prints. The generous act of recycling clothes has been crippled by ever-changing fashion trends pushed by fashion brands for higher profit margins.
Some of these big brands camouflaged themselves as heritage supporters and that’s how zardozi, chikan, and other indigenous crafts seem to be shinning in international markets, but the reality for craftsmen remains far-fetched. These craftsmen are hired by big fashion houses at low wage rates and forced to work under hazardous working conditions. Their hard-earned money is always paid in installments so they can never dream of working independently. A handful of craftsmen like Nazir who are still independently battling to keep our heritage alive, finding it difficult to cope with fierce competition hurled at them by big fashion brands. “मेरी आँखों के सामने कितने कारीगरों ने ये काम छोड़कर रिक्शा चलाना शुरू कर दिया, और यही शायद उनके लिए बेहतर होगा।, sighs Nazir.
Before blaming other factors let’s turn inward and alter our buying habits that not only will make our craftsmen, artisans, life better but can also transform our lives exceptionally.