Shanti Devi is a warm clothes weaver who belongs to Sarahan, Himachal Pradesh where she was born and brought up. She got married in 1962. She is the only girl child in the family with two more brothers. She is also the youngest child.
In the Sarahan culture, girls, when they are young, are taught how to weave wool and make warm clothes like sweaters, gloves, mufflers and many more things. The locals in Sarahan do business in making warm clothes and food items. These two are the specialties of the place.
Shanti Devi has two children, a daughter and a son who works in their apple field. Her husband helps her in the shop where they make woolen clothes as well as shawls of different materials. She has a weaving machine in her shop that she has used for more than 30 years.
Her knowledge of producing clothes is very interesting and she makes customised shawls as well. It takes her not more than one day to make a shawl and other warm clothes. Her nature of talking to people and handling customers is down to earth. Shanti Devi treats people like family.
How and when did you start this shop?
“I belong to a family of farmers and wanted to work in a way where I can help my family. After getting married, my husband and I discussed this and we started my woolen clothes and shawl shop. My husband’s side of the family was against this step. I needed to work as we were facing a financial crisis at that time. It was a hard time for all of us,” she said.
Later, Shanti Devi decided to start her shop and earn whatever she could get. “I set up this shop on 13th October 1982. I saw the women in Sarahan were starting their own shops to help their families monetarily. I never thought of doing this only to help my family, I did it because I wanted to be independent and help people tackle the cold weather here in Sarahan,” she said.
Weaving as a skill taught was to Shanti Devi by her mother who used to make warm clothes for the whole family. “She motivated me to learn and said this skill will be helpful in the future. It is actually helping me to grow and learn more, now. People come unprepared without proper clothes with them for this weather but later when they arrive here, they end up buying so many clothes for their family because the price we sell the warm clothes at is really pocket friendly,” she said with a broad smile.
How has tourism helped you?
“From the start, I always saw this place as colourful with lots of travellers coming to see the market and the Bhima Kaali temple. I have seen a constant increase in the crowd here in Sarahan. My shop is near the temple area, so I get to see locals as well as foreigners who visit Sarahan. The culture we follow over here is to please our visitors with a humble and simple heart,” she said.
Have you observed any climatic changes over the years?
“There has been a constant change in the climatic conditions over here. This year the winters have started early. There used to be times when snowfall or this much cold would happen in the month of November. This has affected the production of apples and other crops. The temperature is constantly dropping here day by day. People have started using layers of warm clothes due to snowfall in the nearby areas. The wind has started to be more cold and dry,” she signed off saying.
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