09 April, 2019

Working with the weavers

We, at Sohum Sutras, work very closely with the weavers in different parts of India. Each weave is different and requires a different set up. Below are pictures of weavers from Varanasi, Odisha and Siddipet.

I seldom rant on social media or vomit personal life online. But sometimes one has to keep one's head above water.

Recently few acquaintances (not friends- have had couple of lunches with them) backstabbed pretty bad. 

A freelance, unemployed journalist who had actually come over and taken commissions for the  kani sarees she sold to her contacts and asked to be treated to lunch on top of that and demanded to be given free gifts like stoles, went on a social media trolling. In Banaras, no saree or design has any copyright. No one can say that Shikargah is mine or Jangla jaal is mine or they developed Kashi saree. The weavers weave for whoever commissions them. Each piece can be bought from any weaver and any shop easily and everything is freely available. Yet, without knowing these facts, this journalist started a campaign against Sohum Sutras- copyright, copy, etc. She went around sending direct messages to people with links to one of our saree. Our fault was that we had copied some text from a website. We rectified that soon. But she made a mountain out of mole- design is copied, etc. We ignored.

A small time boutique owner had joined 4 pieces of khun fabric and developed a khun saree. You can see me wear the same saree with the weaver below. Joining 4 straight lengths of khun fabric- how much designing and mind does it take? To construct such a saree is not a rocket science. Human evolution is based on learning and taking things a step further. While we did give her the credit for her saree, we developed more such sarees with khun, using different colour combinations and adding our own touches to it. Oh, the amount of hullabaloo she created on social media. We ignored.

I know a retired saree Instagrammer, whom I have had few lunches with. I respected her for her knowledge and writing skills. Of late, I had found her writing very repetitive though. She lived in her glorious past and childhood. On social media, you like something one day and become wary of the same with over repetition. One moves on. It is common. We both had stopped commenting or liking each others posts for months. She is no more inspiring for me. Then a week back, her long comment came over one of my saree post. This is not this kind of Odisha saree, it is this and so on. There is no Phoda Kumbha seen in the saree. I am not from Odisha and do not understand the language. I barely knew that it means temple. It is a very honest mistake. Within 15 seconds, I saw she had involved another Odisha saree Instagrammer to post exactly similar things on my second post. Respecting her, I simply corrected my post and tried to end the matter. I was bit surprised though. If you personally know someone, you can pick up the phone to personally let them know about the error or directly message. But when you publicly wish to humiliate a person, let the other one down and flaunt your knowledge, you would resort to this. I wish she had maintained her grace and dignity. But I did not want to make it an issue. So I simply edited the post and corrected it. This probably did not appeal her much. After few days, she messaged, "online sellers do not have common sense... bla bla bla." Really, are online sellers supposed to know the languages and if they make a mistake, they are supposed to be blasted? I am dealing in sarees for heavens sake not a missile. I was again surprised at the rude language but refrained from answering. Naturally, this did not satisfy her. After a week, she posted a long post about this saree is called this, it is not this. Online sellers are ....This saree costs Rupee 500-800. Again I ignored. But the woman was wanting a reaction. So immediately came another post. "This saree is worth Rs.500/-" etc etc. I called my weaver and asked him if he had overcharged me. He asked me, " madam these days even a printed cotton saree does not cost Rs. 500/-. A handwoven pure cotton saree which has 3-4 days of labour, how can it cost Rs. 500?" He had a point. I am selling the same for Rs.1100/-

Many a times you go to stores that are charging you twice or thrice the price of the store next door. If a brand like TATA sells a saree with 3 times higher price, you cheer them, give lectures at their premises. What do you do in that case? Think that maybe the quality is different. Maybe this is a big store in posh locality and has overheads. Do you start a campaign against that store? You cannot do it for a big chain of store but against an individual, online seller, you can collectively start your bullying and trolling campaign. Because they are an easy target. Against a seller who is selling pure cotton, hand woven saree for 1100/-, it is easy to start a campaign. The intelligent audience should judge and reason themselves. Where does it stem from? Jealousy, pettiness. 

Bottom line and learning lessons for us at Sohum Sutras

1. We understand that a customer wants true value for his money and he should get that. Yet, just to be in the competition and being scared of such social media influencers, we will not work unethically or underpay the weavers for their hard labor. We will pay them fairly and take fair prices from customers. 

2. Just because few social media influencers collectively get together and start bullying and trolling, does not deter us from still working well. To err is human. We are not perfect. We also make mistakes but that does not mean that one can hang us to death, label us completely wrong and start trolling and bullying us. 

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