My collaboration with Shakil Ahmed Khatri, master craftsman of Batik block printing, goes back to 2016 when I met him at his workshop in Mundra, Kutch. I was at the ‘what can I do’ phase of my entrepreneurial journey. I was making those critical decisions of what, why and how I should create.
A small batch of 50 metres is what I asked him to do, but in natural dyes and not synthetic dyes. The complexity of the process increases and therefore the time, effort and cost proportionately. That was his first batch of Batik in natural dyes. It turned out to be beautiful. He then got a bigger order from an NGO Khamir and from the onwards he regained his confidence about getting back to natural dyeing which his family had stopped. His experiments with the recipes, fabrics and textures make him a craft innovator.
This wax resist technique has been around for the past 2000 years and yet couldn’t survive industrialization and competition. From an entire township of Khatris to just 4 families in Mundra practicing the craft, this dyeing craft is actually in need of not just patrons but intervention to bring back people to learn the craft and earn a respectable livelihood from it. On one hand it’s more popular cousin Ajrakh has grown from strength to strength, Batik is now a diminishing craft.
“People are opting to do menial jobs at the port and other industries that have cropped up around the town instead of learning the skill because it involves skill development and patience both. Every now and then we fall short of man power. The water table has also decreased due to adjoining industries. Batik and natural dyeing are water intensive, but they do not pollute the water. “says Shakil bhai.
Some help by a NGO is on the way and more is definitely needed. This definitely needs to get the spotlight to keep it alive.