On my last day of my Jaipur trip (December 2016), I visited the famous pink city. Look at it as an outsider, roads are full of people, animals and vehicles; everything but order. But one can see people and businesses doing normal; in fact thriving in this atmosphere. The moment you immerse yourself into it, it becomes the norm. The definition of normal is so relative.
While going back to my hotel, took a cycle rickshaw which is very popular mode of transport in the northern parts of India. While casually talking to the rickshaw walla about the traffic situation in the city and number of hours a day he works for, I came to know that he was into this trade for last 10 years. He and his uncle were tapestry weavers and were doing good, but because of the downturn in the market, the trade was no more feasible. In this strife called life, everyone is struggling to find meaning and if you are at the bottom of the pyramid then survival is the only meaningful thing you could think of. The work that earns you the two meals of the day matter the most.
When an artisan gets out the trade and joins an unskilled labour force, I believe that the economy is not just losing skilled workforce, but society as a whole is losing some tacit knowledge that was passed on from forefathers. Especially in a country like ours where we do not believe in documenting things in black and white, this has a major impact. The skills, the designs that were with skilled artisans would simply be lost and may not be ever restored.
As an individual, my means are too limited to control or restore the fate of a trade, but together if all of us decide to make a choice which favors handmade products, we may succeed in keeping it alive for a little longer.