Saturday, July 2, 2011

Here is part 1 of Uzramma's account of Dastkar Andhra's association with the great K V Chandramouli, Requiem for a Master:

The first experience we had of "Sir", K V Chandramouli, was when we took him to Eluru to teach natural dyeing to woolen carpet weavers. We had heard of him as the authority on natural dyeing and had persuaded the Andhra Pradesh Handicrafts Corporation to appoint him as a consultant. It was 1989, he had just retired from Government service, and Dastkar Andhra was a fledgling group working with artisans in Andhra. Annapurna was 22, an electronics engineer in revolt and a trained Carnatac singer. Salim was a driver & I was a retired housewife in my later forties. I had done some reading on natural dyeing in the old Bristish gazetteers but the other two were completely new not only to natural dyeing but also to any kind of craft production.

Those first workshops in Eluru set many of the traditions of our association with Sir. In those days artisans were not convinced of the value of natural dyeing and not prepared to put in the hard work it involved. They would wander off and Annapurna and Salim would be left to handle the wool. Sir was unfailingly cheerful, never fazed by lack of response, always ready to give his best and to teach whoever was there to learn. Clean to a fault himself he put up with grubby dak bungalow accommodation. In spite of his age and his heart condition - he was 62 and had already had two heart attacks - and his status as a world renowned specialist in natural dyes he cheerfully shared our bus and ricksha travel and ate uncomplainingly whatever food was available. The atmoshere of those workshops was full of enjoyment of each others' company, of the pleasure we got from learning and Sir from teaching. Waiting for the water to boil of the dyes to cook Annapurna would sing Kannada songs for Sir. Guruppa Chetty, a leading Kalamkari artist from Kalahasti and his son Niranjan who had known Sir since childhood and called him Tatha, grandfather, were also part of our team. Guruppa would recite verses from the Puranas and tell stories. That's how Annapurna and Salim started in natural dyeing.

In Eluru we worked with wool using hired cooking vessels that has to be scrubbed of grease before we started and of colour after we finished. We dyed at the roadside tap, drying the wool on the pavement. The weavers were sceptical until they saw the beautiful colours we got: blue from indigo, rusty red from madder root, yellow from myrobalan and pomegranate rind.

More to follow...

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