Not far from the bustling Port City of Vizag is a quiet, sleepy looking village with a characteristic rat-a-tat hum that intersperses the calm. “Ponduru”, popularly called the “khadi village” is just 30 kilometres away from Srikakulam and boasts of its own Geographical Handloom Identification tag. A weaver’s village that has a loom in almost every house, Ponduru has a distinct fabric of quiet perseverance about itself.
‘Ponduru’ is an entire day’s worth of discoveries so starting early is a good idea. Hit the National Highway No.5 to be there in the first working hour of the weavers. If you miss breakfast, don’t worry. You can tuck into a scrumptious breakfast at any of the quaint hamlets lining the highway. Reaching there early would give you a chance to interact with the craftsmen at work and take a peek into the life.
Sights and sounds
The first sight that greets you as you enter the village is the bright colours and neon splashes that adorn the walls of the hamlets. These belie the struggles of the weaver and his family that tries to continue a handloom heritage while managing to make out a living from it. Small houses with two rooms and may be a verandah, in addition, is built around the loom and the weaving process. The entire family is involved in the craft and their life, however frugal is focused on it. There is an empty space in many houses where the second generation of weavers in the family perpetrates the tradition while the youngest has migrated for better work, growth, and living.
Pit Loom Wonders
The best part of the entire trip is to get a chance to witness a weaver working at his loom. Spellbinding and captivating, the very construction and work process is fascinating to behold. Built right into the flooring of the living room, the loom is set up into a pit. The loom accommodates the weaver with leg room for himself and his work partner. the husband and the wife work in tandem in this back-breaking work and what looks harmonious on the surface has come from years of gruelling work. The silence and monotone of the job are broken by a TV on the wall in front in most houses.
Treasures of waft and weft
No less than heirloom pieces, handlooms here come in the forms of raw cloth, khadi sarees and silk and cotton khadi dhotis, for which this area is very popular. It is here the notion must be dispelled that one can walk up to a weaver and buy a product at source price. It is impossible.
The weavers’ work is commissioned by various agencies and in many cases both the yarn as well as the design are pre-provided. The samples are created first and bulk orders readied after approval. Chitrika, an NGO, the government-run Khadi Bhandar, and the master weaver here are the ones who stock it and later sell it. What you could buy here are running fabrics in the precious material that you could tailor into garments of choice.
Long after you return, the hypnotising and meditative hum of the loom is not all that you are left with. The thoughts in a retrospective glance are,
• One must visit Ponduru at least once to see the effort that goes into creating a handloom masterpiece.
• There is a wish that the various agencies operating here, including the Government, take up the improvement of the conditions and amenities of the weavers as well as their village.
• One will want to buy everything and it is a tough call choosing what you take back with you.
• You will want to pack your lunch and take it along because the number of hotels and restaurants here are next to non-existent.