Most of us are born to lead a life that is ordinary and more or less
self-centered. But, as we know, there are exceptions to this common
state of affairs. Mr. Padmanabhan Gopinathan hailing from a weavers?
village near Balaramapuram near the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram
is one such personality, who eventually became a guardian angel for the
weaving community in that region.
The sixty-year-old master weaver was recently honoured with India?s
coveted civilian honour ?Padmashree? and the honour truly justifies the
man?s commitment for a common cause that he had lived for, till now.
What started as a means of livelihood for Mr. P. Gopinathan, while he
was attending school, later saw him becoming a role model for handloom
weavers in and around his native place called Manchavilakam near
Initiated into weaving by his father while he was studying in school,
just because the family needed extra income, Mr. Gopinathan obediently
took up his father?s request. Besides getting trained under his father,
Mr. Gopinathan was also trained by the 80 odd other weavers who were
trained by his father. Those were the days when the handloom sector was
breathing a sigh of relief following the withdrawal of restrictions on
weaving imposed by the British rulers. But, the scenario was yet to
improve, especially on matters of wages and this prompted the young
Gopinathan to try his luck in the neighbouring Nagercoil. This happened
towards the end of 1950s. Gopinathan later moved to Madurai, where he
learned the intricacies of setting up looms. This was followed by a
brief stint in Salem, where he got good exposure in the art and science
of applying colours and dyeing.
One of his brother-in-laws? death brought him back to his native place
and he then decided to stay back and work from his native place. This
was the beginning of an arduous and fulfilling journey that started
with a modest three looms, set up on a small piece of land gifted by
one of Gopinathan?s disciples. In a shack raised on that land he raised
his children and also worked as a weaver. Soon Gopinathan had many
local people from all communities approaching him to learn weaving and
he did not disappoint a single one of them. He trained them free of
cost. Soon with the support of a leading businessman at Balaramapuram,
Gopinathan bought 80 cents of land at his native place and set up 300
looms over a period of six years.
With Mr. Gopinathan?s efforts becoming successful, the mahila samajams
(women?s self-help-groups) started by him increased to over 27 in his
village. The women members of these self-help-groups now have a decent
job and means to take care of their families. The outcome of this can
be seen today at the sprawling 1000 odd looms set up under the banner
of Ecotex near his native place Manchavilakam.
In the art and science of weaving, Mr. Gopinathan has very clear
understanding, approach and application. He is a strict disciplinarian
when it comes to workmanship ? be it the process of weaving, procuring
of quality threads and preparing the threads through various stages
like boiling, applying of glue and dyeing. One of the most essential
know-how that he wants all youngsters who are into weaving to have is a
thorough understanding of the principles behind erecting a loom. This
warrants understanding of certain measures on the floor using thread
and the manner in which it has to be done. And if the basic
calculations err at any point, then the loom erected would be of no use
to the weaver.
Mr. Padmanabhan Gopinathan has spent his entire life trying to salvage
the lives of others, often overlooking his personal sufferings. His
blood and sweat were shed for the welfare of the weaving community of
his village for the past five decades, especially empowering thousands
of women through handloom weaving.
Tel: +91- 471- 2250269