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This couple tries to revive Basohli Pashmina with a women-centric foundation

Last Updated on March 3, 2021 at 6:59 am

Rajni Sharma runs the foundation Discovering Roots along with her husband Venkatakrishna Kunduru. Through their foundation, the couple makes handmade Basohli pashmina. In 2013, they first visited Basohli when the NGO Vishwasthali invited them only to later settle in the town.

Rajni says that making handmade and pure pashmina is not an easy task. Handmade pashmina is a luxury item because makers have to put in extreme efforts to make even a single piece. There are 10-13 steps required for making a pashmina shawl. It can’t be done by a machine in a couple of minutes.

She says that handmade pashmina ages beautifully. It develops a lustre after a certain time period. They wanted to revive this traditional craft so they entered this profession. Her husband, a Supreme Court advocate, says that till the 1970s-80s, most homes in the region would have a spinning wheel. The women in families would clean the pashmina, make the yarn and then get it woven for their family members.

Rajni says that unfortunately, the market has been flooded with machine-made and fake pashmina. The couple wanted to support the craft by offering original pashmina to people who are aware of its real value. It will also give women, who are employed by the, an additional source of income. It is very had to find real pashmina in the market as only very few people sell real it.

They call their product Khadi pashmina. The couple claims that they are the only ones in Basohli who make authentic pashmina through the traditional method, where everything from cleaning, carding, starching (the fabric) to spinning and weaving is done by people and not by machines. They buy raw pashmina from a cooperative in Ladakh and don’t use any chemical in their products.

Their foundation was set up in 2013. It employs 12 women and two weavers full-time. Moreover, they have also additional 100-110 women from the surrounding villages. These women are called “contributors” and are paid per gram of pashmina they work on. Only weaving is done by men, other jobs are done by women.

Kunduru complains that Basohli lacks proper industries. There is not even a single hotel in the region, just two dhabas are there. Most women who are employed by the organization, work to supplement their household income. Women who are permanent employees earn Rs 4,000-12,000 a month.

The couple said that since their work is very time-consuming, they make only 18-20 pieces a month. Their organization makes shawls and stoles in the natural colours of grey, camel and white. However, they refrain from selling online as the couple believes that the product has to be seen and felt. They sell their products from stores like Neel Sutra (Gurugram, Haryana), Artisans’ (Mumbai) and Paper Boat Collective (Goa). A plain shawl from Discovering Roots costs consumer Rs 25,000-40,000.