Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Would like to invite sceptics who are not convinced that malkha is a rural vertical chain & less energy intensive than mainstream textile production to visit one, or several, of our 4 current working centres in Andhra. Of course others are welcome too.

Visitors can see the unbaled cotton being fed into our Gramaspinner carder, the carded sliver being drawn down in the subsequent draw-frame & fly-frame, and then being spun into yarn on second-hand, cut-down ring-frames sourced from spinning mills, or, as we hope in some new centres, being spun on motorized 8 or 12 spindle charkhas, and finally the malkha yarn being woven on handlooms. In one village it happens all in one building, in others looms are in weaver homes or rented sheds nearby.

The springiness and lustre of the malkha fabric, its texture, colour-holding, absorbency & feel can't be achieved any other way.

Malkha eliminates baling, unbaling & blowroom, doing away with a whole chunk of energy needs, not to even consider the humongous quantities of fresh water that are needed daily to cool & humidify large-scale spinning mills. Once we set up a common facilities centre we hope to do our own ginning and lessen some of the distances over which the cotton travels between ginning and the downstream processes. And the fact that it is a small-scale, dispersed process will, we hope and expect, allow for use of alternative, renewable energy rather than grid power or the generators that we use now when there are power cuts.

We hope to put up more malkha centres as demand for the fabric grows.
Running a retail outlet which is also the regular stock-room receiving stock from production and despatching it to customers or printers is a new experience for us, but so far it is enjoyable and interesting. Stock room activities give us something to do in the stretches of time between customers, and at present the two are not clashing, but if either retail or order-servicing, or both, expands there will be a problem and we will need more hands.

From April 1 we hope to keep the shop open till 7.30 pm.

We will be canceling exhibitions scheduled for May & June, for lack of stock.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Well we had a good week at the shop, though no sales on Saturday which was cloudy & rainy. People came who had been looking for malkha, having heard about it from friends. One customer, city based, had finally located it and bought it at an exhibition in Kolkatha, and was delighted to have found our shop.

There were small notices in both the Hindu and Deccan Chronicle.

Since the shop is not signposted customers are having trouble finding it. Though the postal address is Humayun Nagar, this area name is not commonly known, and we've been advised to say Masab Tank instead. Also, though the big landmark for autos is NMDC, which is what the bus stop is known as, this is not exactly across the road from there, and again we've been advised to say 'opposite Madhura Sweets or Brilliant Tutorials' instead. Ah well. Teething troubles, and we should get our roadside sign up soon.

Now we have to juggle stock supplies with sales from exhibitions, to wholesale customers, and from retail, and may have to re-work our exhibition calendar for the year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

After the speeches & the tea people milled around, inspected the fabrics and also initiated our first sales.
Then the best part... Sagari Ramdas sang... two Kabir compositions and a Telugu song ... such a shame that the videos won't load, but here are images... note the bamboo display racks

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Once the rope was untied, the shutter lifted and the lights turned on, the gathering settled down in the shop to listen to the short speeches. Uzramma's introduction was translated into Telugu by Vimala. Shri Vijay Kumar was followed by Shri Rajsekhar and then Narsing Rao gaaru, and the Minister had the last word. During the entire event, pictures of the malkha process and fabric, clothes & events shot by Saravanakumar - were projected on the rear wall. Here is a video of part of the first talk: Well... its not uploaded in hours, so presumably its too heavy... let's try Narsing Rao gaaru's & the Minister's speeches instead... no luck!

The formal opening of the Malkha shop happened on Saturday, the evening of the Supermoon. Shri Jairam Ramesh, Hon Union Minister for the Environment did the honours by untying the malkha rope. Shri Vijay Kumar, Jt Secretary in the Ministry of Rural Development, and B Rajsekhar, CEO, SERP were the government officials who attended. Shri Narsing Rao & Sumana gaaru from Burgula, our trustees Dr Rama Melkote, Ramanjaneyulu & Vijay Burgula were there, with our Natural dyes consultant Jagada Rajappa & Dr Ismat Mehdi from EFLU, Vinita Passary of Anonym boutique and other friends and well-wishers. Vijay very kindly took care of the slide projection. Dastkar Andhra was represented by Shyamsundari, Latha, Sambhavi & Salim. Jagan, formerly our Technical Director and now with Fractal Foundation, was there with his family. Sagari & Madhoo came with their family and Sagari delighted us all by singing Kabir's 'Chadaria' and other such appropriate songs. Tirupati, malkha machine operator from Burgula, presented the Minister with a small mogra plant on behalf of DCYT & MMT.

Here is the first lot of pictures, of the Minster's arrival and rope-untying. More about the event later with more pics and even a video.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sadly we forgot yesterday to take the camera with us to the shop, so didn't manage to record the bamboo gang, traditional medhri artisans from Khamana village in Adilabad district [whose older colleagues/brothers/fathers worked with Vinoo Kaley 20 years ago] setting up the beautiful racks and fabric panels mounted on bamboos and tied with indigo fabric ribbon. Our way of display, casual rather than formal, may not be to everyone's taste. There have been comments that there is too little light [compared to the blazing showrooms around], and questions why fabric is draped rather than stacked. We're also anxious about the hooks that have been put up in the beams to hold the bamboo racks taking the weight of the stacked fabric, though the racks themselves are strong. We find ourselves short of storage space, so several unopened bundles of stock just received from the production centres are hidden behind the fabric panels.

Invitations sent, millet biscuits & special tea ordered, tea-glasses bought, shamiana erected, projector organized, large poster and process chart printed and mounted, all ready for the formal opening later this evening. It's Holi today, so things are starting late. More tomorrow, with pictures.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ceremonial opening tomorrow! We hope the Hon Minister for the Environment will untie the rope.

The Bambooindia team came and put up the bamboo hanging shelves... the question now is: will the ceiling hooks take the load?

Pristine Organics of Bangaore is supplying millet biscuits for the event. Sagari Ramdas is going to sing. Stills & a clip from the Malkha film will be projected. The KVIB canteen will make special spiced tea.
Open to all from Monday 21st.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Another step towards the shop opening... stock being stacked yesterday by Venkatesham and Satyam, now that the very dusty part of the work is over. Today they will collect the new stock from the transport company. Also today we expect the bamboo racks being made by Bamboohouse India, who we were delighted to find are working with the bamboo artisans trained by Vinoo Kaley 20 years ago!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Well at last we can announce the opening of our first shop. Of course it's a great moment for us, and we hope sales will keep up with the expanding malkha production. Hon Minister of Environment Shri Jairam Ramesh is to untie the rope on March 19, and the shop will be open to all from Monday March 21. It will remain closed on Sundays.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The new malkha shop, our first, is under construction and is due to open sometime this month. It's a basement shop in the Khadi & Village Industries building in Hyderabad, between Masab Tank and Mehdipatnam, which KVIB used to use for storing their old files and furniture. [In a future blog you'll see the transformation, from before to after]...

Golak Khandual is helping with the layout, and today the lights are being put up and the sign is being painted.

Here is a picture of Shri Ashok Reddy balancing on a shaky table and hand lettering the malkha sign in Telugu & English with a fine brush. Notice the wooden blocks and stone tile propping up the table legs.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The first get-together of the present malkha collective which includes the machine operators from the Andhra production centres, staff of Decentralized Cotton Yarn Trust and Malkha Marketing Trust, members of Fractal & research students working on malkha issues was held on February 27 & 28 and March 1 (as the government of India's budget was being presented in Delhi) in a seaside village on the Andhra Coast. For those who came from the inland centres it was the first experience of the sea and the life of local fisherpeople, and it took a while for the less adventurous ones to step into the waves. The roar of the waves reminded Jayamma from Siricilla of the sound of the powerlooms!

It was the first time that problems were discussed on a common platform and managers and operators realized that others too faced some of the same constraints, and were also able to sympathize with others who had worse problems than themselves. There were exercises on management and finance, including one on fabric pricing with the recent huge jump in cotton prices. A whispered message "Satyanarayana's daughter went to the movies with Raju without permission" went round the circle to become "Satynarayana's wife has left him" - and there was no more need to stress communication problems.

Solidarity grew over the three days with the fun and games, many of them on the beach. The Fractal team of 5 shared Sunday afternoon with us, and gave the group an enlightening account of the long and difficult 15 year journey of machine development from a rusty set of discarded khadi pre-spinning machines to the present.

The Burgula operators put on a hilarious impromptu skit with Suresh as a fake astrologer. Srikanth as his client was a doctor who had studied upto standard 3; all those who had only passed the first grade had got Government jobs, he said. He himself had killed many people and could afford to pay the astrologer's astronomical fee as he had sold two patients' kidneys. The astrologer's ready wit and repartee was hugely enjoyed by the audience.

At the end of the three days there was a great sense of fellow-feeling and most of the participants were keen that such events should happen at least once a year.

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