Keeping hope afloat
Jupinderjit Singh meets three families which refused to buckle under hardship and injustice. They did not choose to be losers in the face of misery. They could have blamed the rot in the system for their sad plight. But they chose a more challenging path to prove that hope sustains
IN these times of general pessimism, hope is a word that is heard less and less frequently. However, there have always been individuals who have shown that no matter how hopeless the system, nothing can stop a determined person.
Here are examples of
three persons whose indomitable spirit made them go a long way. Their
urge to surge forward despite all odds has made them real-life heroes.
Gurnam Singh, a resident of Moti Bagh in Ludhiana, has shown that single-minded devotion to a goal can help you accomplish it. A daily-wage earner, his meagre earnings did not discourage him from dreaming about providing higher education to his two daughters and one son.
He himself could not study beyond matriculation because he had no money. But he did not let his offspring feel the pinch of poverty. He toiled day and night, while the children managed to earn scholarships, to realise their aim.
His wife Mohinder Kaur chipped in by stitching clothes and doing sundry jobs. By and by, they strengthened their financial position. Gurnam’s focused hard work finally paid off. Today, he is a proud father: his eldest daughter Gurinder Kaur is a doctor, the younger Rajinder Kaur is an electronics engineer and the son Hargobind Partap is studying in an engineering college.
Gurinder completed MBBS from Rajindra College, Patiala, with first division and is doing her internship there. Rajinder Kaur did engineering in electronics and mass communication last year and Hargobind stood 17th in the entrance exam to Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology in 2004.
Gurnam’s journey was dotted with thorns and dead-ends but he never lost hope. He would even go to government offices, banks and media organisations seeking help. He did not surrender to circumstances by marrying off his daughters and concentrating on just the education of his son.
The family members have lost count of the number of times they have had to sleep on a hungry stomach. Such was his zeal and single–minded devotion for making the career of his children that even the Punjab Government took notice of the reports in the media about his efforts and gave him Rs 1 lakh as a special grant.
Generous donations from organisations and philanthropists made it possible for him to finance his children’s education.
Fight for justice
Six years ago, the world of Rakesh Kumar, a garment designer, came crashing down when he fell into a manhole. The fall left him paralytic. By the time he was able to move the left side of his body, after several months of costly treatment, he had lost his business. With passage of time, he collected bits and pieces to run a printing press. But this business just did not pick up.
To add to his woes, the trauma of having to suffer because of negligence of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation, whose employees had left the manhole open, did not let him sleep. He decided to raise a voice against the negligence of the MC.
He and his wife did small jobs to sustain themselves. He kept knocking at the doors of the authorities to get justice. His zeal to get justice attracted media attention. The media reports in turn drew the attention of the Punjab Human Rights Commission. Eventually, the Punjab Government announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh.
Rakesh’s grit and determination to fight for justice was awarded doubly. Both his son and daughter got excellent career breaks. While his son Ankur was recruited as computer engineer with TATA Company at Gurgaon, his daughter was taken in as software engineer with the same company. The hard work of the parents bore rich fruits as the family, struggling to have two square meals per day, had plenty to live by.
"My children did not require anyone’s recommendation. I too got justice after repeatedly taking on the insensitive system. I would always say all is not lost. Hope is still there," he says.
Poverty and incapacitation could not conquer his spirit. A businessmen operating from the mini secretariat had offered to set up a kiosk for him to sell cigarette/pan. But he had bluntly refused, saying: "I would prefer to die of hunger rather than sell poison."
Babu Ram, a migrant labourer from Bihar, is another towering figure of fortitude. A frail, wrinkle-faced man, he came to Ludhiana as a migrant labourer over three decades ago. For the first decade, he worked as a construction labourer. Then he took up a few other jobs before he became the caretaker, a Class-III post, of the Shastri Badminton hall.
He served badminton players, and cleaned the hall during day and kept watch at night. He could never dare to dream that his children too could one day become players.
Living in one room with his wife, two sons and a daughter, Babu Ram would often see his toddler elder son playing with racquets. But he would shoo him away, fearing that his son would invite the ire of players and coaches.
But talent cannot be subdued for long. His elder son Harish Kumar played when the hall was empty. Soon, his play caught the attention of badminton coach Gian Inder Singh. "He saw my children playing and encouraged them."
Harish soon became the district champion and went on to play for the country in the World Badminton Championship organised in Hong Kong. He had already won several coveted badminton championships at the national level. He was soon picked up by the Railways and won the Inter-Railway Championship.
Destiny, however, had other plans. A
cruel road accident snatched away Harish. Soon, however, his younger
brother, Raj Kumar, became National doubles champion in the under-13
category. In singles, he stood fourth. Currently, he has been practising
hard to represent India in the under-16 Junior World Badminton
Championship. He looks towards his ageing father for motivation.
From the Delhi Polo Grounds to the high profile Indian weddings, the rich and famous of India have been increasingly seen in the elegant kaani jamavars. It has become a style statement in recent years. Notwithstanding the big hole it may burn in their wallets, more and more men and women are flaunting jamavars.
A unique product of Kashmiri artisans’ immaculate workmanship, the jamavar has a long history. It had been a rage since the time of Akbar to the Parisian ballrooms of Napoleon’s court. While some art historians claim that weaving of brocade shawls dates back to the 11th century, others claim that Zain-ul-Abdin, the ruler of Kashmir in the 15th century, summoned a master weaver named Naqsh Baig from Turkestan to introduce the art of weaving kaani jamavars in Kashmir.
Traditionally, the designer or naqqash decided the pattern and the tarah guru, or colour caller, sang out the design, bottom upwards, while the weavers worked. The jamavar was generally woven in parts, with the rafugar or invisible darner darning them finely together — a painstaking process of picking up the loose warp threads of one unfinished edge and entering them into a corresponding section of the other half in such a way that the stitch is not visible from the right side. This art is known as ‘lost mending’.
The typical jamavar motifs consisted of badam, kairi (paisley), lotus, tree of life (chinar tree with many birds perched on it) and the chinar leaf patterns. Other variations are the striped shawl (khatras) and floral running borders with corner motifs. Over the years, Kashmiri craftsmen developed this tradition of weaving into a stylised art form. Earlier, the jamavar was a symbol of royalty, as no commoner could afford such an expensive shawl that took craftsmen years to produce.
Later, some Kashmiri craftsmen migrated to the Punjab and north-western part of the country and jamavar shawls, sometimes the size of bedcovers, were produced in the early 19th century. Some of the master craftsmen embroidered their signature and the date of manufacture on the drape and many custom-made shawls carried the family crest of the owner. By the end of the 18th century, jamavar became a craze in Europe. The cashmere shawl became a symbol of prestige among the women of the French aristocracy who tried to emulate Empress Josephine.
However, in 1806, Napoleon announced continental blockade, which banned the entry of British ships into France. French women could only acquire Kashmiri shawls if they paid astronomical sums for goods smuggled through Russia. Cashing in on this situation, French manufacturers developed an indigenous industry to imitate Kashmiri jamavars. Paisleys, as they were later called, were the French imitations in fine wool, at times mixed with silk instead of the original pashmina. Factories producing such shawls sprung up in Rheims and Saint Ouen near Paris.
In 1818, French weavers fitted jacquard mechanisms into their looms, which sounded the death-knell for the original craft as the Kashmiri jamavar, which took two men 18 months to produce, could in no way compete with the prices of shawls manufactured on power looms. Cheap imitations could be found in European markets and gradually the art of weaving jamavars was abandoned in India sometime in the middle of the 19th century as the local craftsmen found it economically unviable.
For more than 150 years jamavars were not produced, and only old shawls in the family were passed on as heirlooms, while many more valuable pieces decayed in obscurity. Large single pieces were cut into borders or smaller shawls, thus destroying the original beauty of the jamavar. Rafugars from Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh then started buying these tattered shawls and repaired them in order to restore them to their original splendour.
With consumerism on the rise, the demand for jamavars rose considerably in the past two decades. The prices of old pieces skyrocketed yet they were not enough to meet the demand of the ever-increasing rich clients. Connoisseurs of art realised that the art of weaving jamavars, which was the exclusive domain of Kashmiri craftsmen, had to be revived. With full support of the local government, the dead art has been revived in its softer, slimmer and more delicate avtaar. Though the process of weaving remains almost the same, newer colour schemes, designs, chemical dyes and finer pashmina mixed with angora wool or the banned toosh yarn have come up. The price is Rs 1.5 lakh upwards for a woman’s shawl and Rs 8 lakh or so for a man’s shawl. Considering that two weavers take about a year to weave a jamavar, this labour intensive piece of art is priceless.