I met Aitryee for the first time in 2010 at Haflong metre gauge train station. Pratibha from Kokrajhar had connected me to her. Aitryee and I found friendship in each other soon after we met. While we indulged in non-stop laughters, we also spent many years working together on Dimasa weaves.
I started bringing cotton yarn to Haflong and encouraged weavers to weave using cotton instead of synthetic yarns. Aitryee championed the work we carried out with Dimasa weavers for more years than I could ever imagine. She involved some good weavers like Molina, Abila didi and Doley didi to weave with cotton. We women sat together, understanding the technique of weaving involved in certain motifs, their significance and how we could work out their dimensions. We spoke about how we could integrate the weaves into dupattas, shawls, saris and borders. All these weaves were from imagination of the weavers, their authentic weaving motifs and skill translated as their individual expression. Over years, they became more familiar with weaving with cotton. Many hundreds of kilos of cotton hanks have been brought here and Aitryee’s dedicated efforts brought Dimasa weaves as one of the highlights in all our work since 2010. Because of encouraging remuneration, our work continued for many years without obstacle. My focus in other regions and lockdown has brought a small glitch of travel to Haflong.
I long to go back to Haflong and share moments of creative interactions with Aitryee and the weavers again. Molina always took the weaving ideas a step higher with her very fine weaving skills. I always waited to get a call from Aitryee saying Molina has finished her weave and is ready to start the next! The happy anxious energy I feel every time Molina makes a weave, reveals to me the respect I have for young women who engage deeply in their indigenous craft. They are in tune with their feminine force. And to be in the presence of such feminine energy has been the most enriching aspect of this journey.
Aitryee taught me that the traditional loom is called Daophang. And also translated stories of the ancient oral belief that Daophang existed at the beginning of universe. I also read that, among the gods and goddesses, the weaving existed long before there was air or sound. When there was nothing but silence and water, where under a large banyan tree, Goddess mother was found weaving. Aitryee also shared that Dimasa people have many songs that narrate the significance of weaving, and encourage youngsters to become self sufficient by training themselves in crafts like weaving, bamboo baskets and making houses.
Dimasa weavers take much pride in their weaving skills and there is a specific term for expert or master weavers, ‘Daokrigdi’.
Thank you Aitryee for building beautiful bridges to knowledge, skill, collaboration and preservation of your indigenous knowledge.
In this Sari, Dimasa weaves are set besides hand spun Indigo and Lac dyed Eri silk. Such Saris are not Saris, they are a bag full of experiences, laughters, stories, memories, skill, exchange of techniques, thinking and imagining together.