By Shanta Kalyanasundaram
Alaka Das Rajbongshi is from a small village in Nalbari which is a 3-hour drive from the capital Guwahati in the state of Assam in Northeast India.
She does not deal with readymade clothes; Alaka makes her own, from scratch! She owns a loom and weaves the cloth to make the traditional dress of Assamese women called Makhela.
Her story is not so much about her talent as a weaver; it is about survival as a woman facing huge social, emotional and psychological trauma. Both Alka and her sister are carriers of the Hemophilia gene and their brother Dhanmani has Hemophilia. This family has faced numerous tragedies. Alka’s sister lost two sons to Hemophilia and Alka is married but has decided not to have any children. To many, Alka’s decision may not portend a trauma.
However, when culture and tradition place demands on a woman to adhere to the role of wife and mother, it takes tremendous courage to break with accepted norms. Witnessing the pain, suffering and death of her two nephews and her sister’s despair at the loss of her children, and the censure she faced for being a carrier, Alka decided that she would not consciously bring hemophiliac children into this world. Whether her husband and his family understand her reasons for not wanting children, remains unresolved.
But, Alka knows that the social stigma associated with Hemophilia and carriers of the gene is inevitable. Her sister is living proof of that!
All Alka is trying to do is to earn a decent living and take care of her younger brother Dhanmani, a severe Hemophiliac who helps her to sell the Makhela she weaves. Alka appealed for funds to buy more raw materials to increase sales. She wants to make sure that Dhanmani gets the regular physical therapy he needs; she wants to ensure her financial independence.
Together Alka and Dhanmani make an effective team. The Makhela she produces are exquisite and Dhanmani is a good salesman and committed to his work. With the funds received from SABHA, Alka and Dhanmani will soon have a thriving business!