Some stories stay with us forever. One such story is of Mr. Aboni Biswas, whom I met in a small village Shantipur, in Nadia district, West Bengal. He was busy weaving a beautiful yellow sari and smoking when I first saw him.
The ease in the movement of his hands showed how skilled and experienced he was. Aboni, aged 72 was in all good spirits to talk and yet continued his coordinated motion to weave.
He lost his parents at an early age of 15, moved to his uncle’s residence and started working as a daily wage labourer in Shantipur. Aboni was a dreamer who wanted to own a few handlooms and so he progressed to achieve it. He married at the age of 24 and his companion Arati joined him. Both of them first began learning the art of weaving and worked in nearby looms.
The family started to grow, and as Mrs.Arati Biswas says, "I cannot remember when I became a full-time mother of three kids. I stopped working due to the household chores but the struggle now took a different turn for my children.” Aboni says, "Our first handloom machine, I still remember was handmade. I started weaving and selling sarees.” Arati coyly says, "He weaved the first saree for me on his first handloom machine.”
Back then, the situation was stressful. Weaving didn't fetch that much money. Aboni recalls, “It was Rs 400 for a month to survive in those times while now Rs 7000 seems nothing, gone are those days.”
Arati talks about times when she and her husband slept without food to provide for their children and how beaten up they used to feel. As years passed, the children grew up but none of them could complete proper education. Both the sons too learnt weaving.
Aboni narrates the incident where he had to sell two handlooms to build a shelter for his family in a day. The shelter, though, was a mud-hut but it holds great value. The mud-hut today has been transformed into a concrete walled three room house because his sons are successful weavers with handlooms running in the house and they also work outside.
Aboni never wants to leave weaving as he says, "My hands will stop when I die. It has been 42 years. Even today I help my daughter-in-law weave whenever she has too many chores to take care of.”
Life has shown many shades but the companionship surpassed all. Today, Aboni and Arati spend most of their time with grandchildren and weave at times. This couple is an inspiration for many such weavers in Nadia region, where weaving is one of the most popular art forms.