City Culture – The Art of Seat Weaving, Near Tolstoy’s Statue
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Do you know who has made the seat of the chair on which you are sitting?
A man or a woman, certainly, but this might be true only up to a point. After all, these days most things come out of factories and your chair might very well be the result of industrial mass production. One afternoon, however, The Delhi Walla comes across a rare sight. Two men are weaving chair seats with their own hands.
Naval Singh and Vijay Kumar are at work. The open-air setting is literature-friendly. We are next to Leo Tolstoy’s statue in Central Delhi’s Janpath. The arms of these two men are moving in their own respective harmonies–they must have been executing this same motion day after day after day. Taking a momentary break, Mr Singh says, “We were asked by a nearby office to re-weave 12 of their chairs with torn seats. It’s been some days and we have finished six.”
The aforementioned office, too, must be a rarity. Most workplaces have shifted their loyalties to plastic chairs or swivel chairs that rotate 360 degrees.
Mr Singh says that it takes one whole day for a single person to weave a chair. Lifting a crochet hook, which he calls ‘choori’, he says he arrived in Delhi many years ago from a village near Agra and that his father and grandfather also used to make their living by weaving chair seats. Neither of Mr Singh’s two sons wants to continue with the family profession. “It is on them to become something. The chair weaving does not make a comfortable life,” he mutters, plunging back into his chair.