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Chekutty arises as mascot of hope

Some thirty-five kilometers North of Kochi is the village of Chendamangalam, a quaint little village set on the banks of the River Periyar. Chendamangalam falls on the tourist map for the Paliam Palace (Palace of the Prime Minister of the Kochi Maharaja) and the Chendamangalam Synagogue (A historical Jewish Synagogue), but not many are aware of the traditional handloom societies that operate here, very few tend to visit them as well.

Chendamangalam on the banks of Periyar River

The recent floods in Kerala were devastating, and the Village of Chendamangalam was no exception. They had a terrible time during the floods, and the post-flood relief and rehabilitation was also a difficult task. It was a moment where the rich and the poor, men and women, all fell in the same category of being just human beings, fighting a situation which none could easily handle. Among them were the weavers of Chendamangalam who were struggling to overcome the tragedy, their work units, looms and the machinery, all of them were under water, and it took just more than a week for the water to subside. Many of them were in relief camps and returned home to witness the havoc the rain and the river have brought them. The weaving community focuses on hand-woven sarees and other cloth material, which is actually a very laborious process. It was not just their looms, their homes were also part of this destructive process.

The destroyed looms of Chendamangalam

Photo Credit - Chekutty

Onam was around the corner, and it was time for some great hike in the sale of newly designed sarees in the market. Malayali always had a love for hand-woven saree and especially Khadi. Onam is when many buy new clothes, and so the weavers were all prepared for it. It was then an unexpected toll of rain and the opening of dams brought the partial man-made catastrophe. The looms were all submerged into the muddy slush that flowed into their little factories. All that was left back was dirt and mud. The looms looked as if they were literally dipped into the slushy mud. The stock prepared for Onam was also destroyed and unusable. Life was at a stall, everything tumbled down into pieces, and all that they left with, was hope.

Lakshmi Menon and Gopinath at their Chekutty Stall during KTM 2018

Photo credits - Tourism Live News | In the above picture is Lakshmi Menon and Gopinath Parayil

The only thing that could be done with the stocks was to burn it into ashes. Whatever stocks of saree that was not affected was sold like hot cakes considering the situation of the weavers. Thanks to two social entrepreneurs - Lakshmi Menon, who is a fashion designer and Gopinath Parayil a tour operator based out of Kochi.

Chekuttys hanging at their Kerala Travel Mart Stall

They arrived into a concept of fabric dolls, made out of these unusable sarees. The whole idea was to sell these dolls and raise funds for the rehabilitation of the weavers in Chendamangalam. An idea, so creative that could reach far lands across the globe - That was Chekutty - A beacon of resilience. The fabrics were cleaned and processed in chlorinated water to keep away germs and bacteria and finally becomes Chekutty.

Chekutty at KTM 2018

Chekutty encapsulates the stories of the lives of the handloom weavers of Chendamangalam. She is a mascot who rose up from a moment of trauma. She became an incarnation of their sweat and blood to let the world know about the weavers of Chendamangalam, the situation in which they are so that the world comes down to help them. Chekutty gets her name from "Cheru" meaning mud, and "Kutty" means a child, you can combine as to know how she got her name - She is the Child who overcame the dirt. Chekutty has her charismatic smiles, as well as those scars and wrinkles that tell about the story of hardship, fight, and humanity. Chekutty has a stall at the recent Kerala Travel Mart, that was where I got to know more about Chekutty. She was a carrier of the message to the world through media, and many have come forward to take her up. She has brought change, and her smiles are being transformed into more beautiful smiles who handcraft beautiful fabric in their looms. Chekutty might fade away in the course of the world, but the tragedy and the concept in which she rose into her existence is history. If you wish to purchase some Chekutty for yourself to be a part of the movement, please visit the following link - Each of them costs INR 25, a saree could make around 360 Chekutty's, and about INR 9000, all of them directly goes to the rehabilitation of the Chendamangalam weavers society. You can use them to hang in your car, tie it in your suitcase, gift it as a souvenir along with her story, and much more which is left to your creativity.

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