Wearing KHADI today?


Wearing KHADI today?

Inseparable, some say, from the Independence movement, and irrelevant now, outside of sarkari rhetoric? But the khadi story is not so mundane. It can become a chic, green ethos-friendly fabric. That also means it becomes a high-priced, luxury consumption item. Bureaucrats and designers need to think clearly
On a monsoon afternoon, Ponduru village in Srikakulam district of coastal Andhra Pradesh wears a silver-grey light. Amid clucking fowls and scampering children, Mangamma is at work at a charkha, her hennaed fingers cradling the spindle as she slowly turns the wheel with her right hand. Her neighbours join her to spin the yarn on her verandah. There is a charkha in every home here; young or old, every woman spins one.

Ponduru is part of a cluster of villages where India’s traditional spinning technique is still alive. Here, everything is done by hand: from cleaning and de-seeding the short-staple hill cotton with the jawbone of the valuga fish to spinning the yarn. The khadi has a distinct weave and a full-bodied texture that is only accentuated by use and repeated washes. It is expensive: one metre can cost up to Rs 542 and a sari or men’s dhoti is priced at Rs 6,400. The rare connoisseur of khadi, from within the country and outside, travels this far to buy this exquisite almond-coloured (or natural white) fabric. Politicians and local residents buy the medium variety of Ponduru khadi; it is available at a few khadi bhandars in the state.

But it is yet to make an appearance on Indian fashion runways; you could stump the majority of designers by its mention. Even Fab India and Anokhi regulars willing to pay for khadi chic are not aware that such a luxurious fabric exists. When the Andhra Fine Khadi Karmika Sangham (AFKK), a government undertaking based in Ponduru, set up a stall at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan three years ago, not a single sale was made.