Hit hard by the coronavirus- induced lockdown, 'Himroo' weavers in Maharashtra's Aurangabad district are waiting for return of foreign tourists, prime customers of their products, and full-fledged start of normal activities for revival of their business.
Himroo is a fabric made of silk and cotton and its origin in Aurangabad can be traced back to medieval India.
The once thriving Himroo weaving industry is now struggling for survival and efforts are on to obtain Geographical Identification (GI) mark for the art in a push to save it from going into total oblivion.
Imran Qureshi, who belongs to a local family of Himroo weavers, is a worried man as his business has suffered considerably due to the lockdown and is now pinning his hopes on "Unlocking" process to bring customers.
"The turnover of our business prior to lockdown was Rs 10 lakh to Rs 12 lakh a year. This is almost zero now.
"I had a unit of six handlooms, but I have decided to shut it and bring those looms home. Foreign tourists, who are our prime customers, are not coming to Aurangabad since lockdown.
"How long it will take for situation to normalise, we dont know," Imran Qureshi told PTI.
"We have a limited number of craftsmen who know this art of weaving. We didnt reduce manpower in lockdown, but they are not getting the salaries they used to get earlier," said another member of the family, Aamer Qureshi.
Imran Qureshi is worried about the vanishing art of traditional Himroo weaving, which is one of the identities of Aurangabad, a city in central Maharashtra with a rich history and culture and also an international tourist hub.
"No marketing, use of power looms and lack of government initiative is making this art rare. There are many places in Aurangabad where Himroo-like fabrics are sold which are actually made on powerloom.
"The actual Himroo fabric is hand weaved. I tried to continue the work with weavers called from Banaras (Varanasi).
But its demand has declined so is the production," said Imran Qureshi, whose family is involved in Himroo weaving for generations.
Stoppage of flights from Rajasthan led to a negative impact on Himroo business in Aurangabad, he said.
"Tourists coming by Udaipur flight to Aurangabad used to be Europeans, Americans and Mexicans. They used to buy Himroo products on a large scale.
"Now, the scene has changed as Thai, Chinese and Korean tourists visit the city in greater numbers. But they don't buy (these products) much," Imran Qureshi said.
Another Himroo weaver and businessman Ramesh Khatri said, "My yearly turnover used to touch Rs 1 crore. But the business in two months since the Unlock phase is not more than Rs 4 lakh.
"Tourists are not there, people generally buy these products as gifts for their guests. But as inter-district movement is restricted, the buying of Himroo has also almost stopped."
Regional Deputy Commissioner of textile department S M Swami said, "The art of Himroo weaving is getting rare as it is left with handful families. There is a need to revive this art.
"We sent a proposal of Geographical Identification (GI) mark to Maharashtra State Handloom Corporation in Nagpur prior to lockdown."
Historian Dr Dulari Qureshi-Gupte said Himroo is said to have originated in Persia though this is not conclusively proved.
"It is associated with the time of Mohammed bin Tughlaq, who ruled in the 14th century, when he shifted his capital from Delhi to Daultabad. Later, it was patronised by Mughals," Qureshi-Gupte said.