The Jem of Odisha
Ikat is a weaving technique. It involves tying the yarns as per the patterns one wishes to produce and then dyeing them. Later, these dyed yarns are used as warp or weft or both. The process is quite complex. The warp ikat is the simplest while warp-weft ikat (popularly known as patola in India) is the toughest. One needs patience and a great sense of visualization to develop this art. We went to Odisha looking for artisans with this kind of perseverance and kept it alive in the form of different textiles which have developed there.
The day we reached Bhubaneshwar, we had arranged for a meeting with Surendra Patra, Director, Weavers’ Service Centre. Unfortunately, we were late for the meeting by half an hour. We were not sure if we would be entertained at all. To our sheer luck, his meeting too got delayed.
We imagined a government employee in his 50s would be least interested in entertaining people post his normal work hours. We sat in his cabin looking around shooing mosquitoes away and taking in the musty smell from the walls. The sun sets early in Bhubaneshwar, as it is on the eastern side of India. It was getting dark too.
Soon came in a short, bald and extremely jolly middle-aged man. He was so happy to greet us. He even apologized for being late. We started talking about The Co Company and its vision and what we expect from Mr. Surendra Patra. He enthusiastically called his junior and asked him to open a room. He swiftly got up and led us to a room of design. We were mesmerized. There hung all the beauties of Odisha. Some old and some new, some original and some inspired. Stacks and stacks of sarees. The wall was decorated with different weaves. Some were more contemporary than others.
While we walked through the room, we were being fed with information on the weaves and which artisan could weave what kind of sarees. It was such a selfless act. Astounding :) We started taking information, details of weavers and their locations. We kept calling him over the next few days pestering him to share the phone numbers or some more details. Not once we sensed a hint of exasperation.
People like him are everywhere. They become the dots that connect the world.