Passing on the threads to the next generation
Here is how a timely eye health intervention catalysed the succession process of artistic skills from one generation to another.

Passing through the muddy and wet paths, me and my colleagues from Mission for Vision and Sri Sankaradeva Nethralaya reached a small mud house with thatched roof made of dried bamboo. We were at a village nestled deep in the green pastures of Pathsala, Guwahati. The person we intended to meet at this house had gone to visit the neighbour’s house. A few months ago, 65-year-old Anandi (name changed) was suffering from sight-related issues due to a cataract and this confined her to the small mud-house and the radius of the verandah. However, things have now changed for the better because of a timely eye health intervention. With her successful cataract surgery, Anandi barely stays home and is enjoying her newfound freedom. Her daughter-in-law Malti (name changed) went to fetch Anandi from their neighbour’s place and quipped while leaving, “Maa is rarely at home these days, all thanks to the operation.” 

Threading the needle

As we waited for Anandi, I noticed a manual handloom perched atop the platform beside the storage room. There was a partially completed white saree that was spread across the loom. Anandi hurriedly arrived along with Malti and upon her arrival, I enquired on the handloom machine in the corner. Anandi shared that she enjoys making cotton sarees and weaving shawls. This not only fulfils her passion for art but also contributes to the family income.

Anandi’s son is the primary earning member of the family, and he works as a carpenter. Anandi’s husband was also engaged in carpentry work, and he passed on the skill to their son before leaving the worldly plains. While Anandi was in the process of grooming Malti (daughter-in-law) in the art of weaving, her vision started deteriorating. 

Photo: Anandi undergoes an eye screening on her verandah

Embracing the warrior’s scar

A cataract in her eye made finer tasks such as weaving, cleaning rice/fish and cutting vegetables extremely challenging. The obstacles kept multiplying and she had frequent accidents. With a bit of reluctance, Anandi pointed towards her shin where a scar served as a constant reminder of her fall. The frequent accidents instilled a sense of fear in her, and she decided to stay within the perimeters of her house and the adjoining verandah area. She lost all hope of passing on the skill of weaving to her future generations and soon became a recluse.

Through word of mouth, Anandi’s family learnt about the Pathsala Vision Centre established with the collective efforts of Cognizant Foundation, Mission for Vision and Sri Sankaradeva Nethralaya. When Anandi underwent a detailed eye examination at this Vision Centre, the team found that a cataract in her eye was the root-cause of all her problems. Anandi and her family members received proper counselling and Anandi was referred to the base hospital of Sri Sankaradeva Nethralaya for cataract removal surgery. The surgery was done at no cost for Anandi considering her financial constraints. 

From one generation to another

After her complete rest and recovery, Anandi resumed her weaving work almost immediately. Anandi’s face brightened when she began narrating the present-day scenario where she gets to train her daughter-in-law in the art of weaving. With their joint efforts, they are weaving more and earning double the amount than before. As for Malti, she enjoys weaving along with her mother-in-law and this activity instills a sense of independence and adds a meaningful dimension to her life. The income earned through weaving incentivizes her to hone these skills and add in a personal touch of her own.  

Photo: Malti looks on as Anandi undergoes a quick eye screening

As we prepared to leave, Malti shared a few words that beautifully captured the impact of an eye health intervention on an individual and their families. Malti concluded the conversation, 

“While Maa regained her sight through this surgery, it has opened our eyes towards this approach of preserving our traditions and artforms. Just the way Maa trained me, I am going to ensure that this skill is not lost and is passed on from one generation to another. Plus, this helps us become independent and earn our money with pride. Even though we are living a simple life now, our hearts are filled with joy that we have a meaningful life and are certain that these values will be carried forward by our future generations.” 


About the Author: 

Shrikant Ayyangar is the Lead for Communications at Mission for Vision, where he spearheads the organisation’s communications efforts and plays a key role in communication strategy, website management, social media outreach, media relations, content curation and branding activities.