By Upasana Sharma:
“Yeh Jo des hai tera, Swades hai tera, tujhe hai pukara….” this melody rendered by the A. R. Rahman makes you want to go back to your country even when you are already in your country! It holds a deeper meaning, more so, given the times. It has been proved time and again that a better future of the country lies in the hands of the youth. And the strongest tool we have is awareness.
Most of us know, thanks to our civics textbooks, that agriculture is the largest occupation in India. But, most of us are unaware that handmade crafts are the second largest occupation. India is one of the few countries in the world that has the tradition of handicrafts dating back to over 5000 years. Every state in our country has its own ethnicity which is unique to its culture, traditions and environment. Families in those states have these secrets passed on to them from their previous generations that have taken the shape of unique art forms. These art forms are a large part of the rich heritage that all of us take pride in.
But with the advent of machines and the neglect of government and people, these art forms are dying. While battling with the invasion of machines and cheaper products, many art forms face extinction due to the fact that younger generation of those families, who have carried them on till now, is giving them up for greener pastures. Art forms face the threats in the form of low market share and measly wages. If this trend keeps going on, these crafts will be lost in the near future and the only proof of their existence will be museums.
Before that happens, can we do something to help? We indeed can. Taking a leaf out of our history, during India’s freedom struggle, the Swadeshi movement was an economic strategy to boycott British products and stick to domestic products and production processes. This was taken as a step towards “Swaraj.” We can take inspiration from this and the next time we step out to spend our hard earned money, we can try and explore options available in the handicraft markets. The visual and aesthetic appeal of these products needs to reach a larger market to thrive and youth being the trendsetters can go a long way in bringing them back. Without advocating that the there should be boycotts of any form, the point is to try and bring handicrafts back in our homes and provide these artisans with the market. Youth being the major driver behind consumerism, a focus from our end, will indeed be a help to these dying crafts.
Many shop, marts, exhibitions and websites have flourished with the sole aim of helping these artisans and handicraft workers. We have technology at our hands which can be used to revolutionize the handicrafts scene in India. Shopping for these products will also be a guilt free exercise because of the altruistic factor. So next time you set out to buy something, think “Desi”.