| Pankajini Mohanty (in green sari) with students at her workshop in Puri. Picture by Sarat Patra |
Puri, April 30: Promoting handicrafts and making women self-employed by training them were the pledges Pankajini Mohanty took almost four decades ago. Today, the 65-year-old continues her work in that direction with the same vigour.
In 1975, Pankajini started her Kalinga Women’s Serving and Handicraft Samiti to update chandua, an appliqué item, which is the traditional handicraft of Pipili. Starting off with a dozen students, Pankajini went on to train hundreds over the years.
“I was good at tailoring and making the chandua. But when I planned to begin the training centre, as a newly married woman, there was some opposition from my in-laws. However, I was determined and went ahead, starting the centre at a small rented space. Soon, with the help of my students and the government from time to time, there was a brisk business. I even built a house of my own earnings,” said Pankajini.
Observing that the usual pattern of chanduas was not attracting as many customers, Pankajini designed frocks and dresses, using the traditional appliqué pattern that soon became popular and earned her consignments from all across the country.
“I started the Kalinga Handicraft Industries then. My institution received many certificates and awards for the work and was training many students at affordable fees. In fact, the government used to pay stipend to those, who were training at my centre,” Pankajini said.
At present, Pankajini’s students run almost all boutiques and tailoring centres in Puri.
“She is very energetic and determined. Even at this age, she inspires us through her visions to develop the handicraft of chandua in new ways to keep its demand intact,” said Sabita Ghosh, one of Pankajini’s former students, who is now a resource person at her centre.
Pankajini’s three children are well settled outside the state, but she feels there is much she needs to do for her state. At present, more than 20 students learn the nuances of handicrafts and tailoring at her centre.