Moving his hands swiftly and neatly on a fine piece of cloth is an art that Jitendra learnt in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh. These fine works of maggam have made by none other than the traditional weaving class of Uttar Pradesh. In Lucknow, this embroidery work is known as Zari and Maggam is the Telugu name for it. This street near the Ameerpet Metro Station is situated behind the South Indian Shopping Mall. Although it may look like just other ordinary streets of Hyderabad, entering it, is a world in itself. This street is different from the IT sector in Ameerpet, the larger subset of its identity. This street in itself is a hidden reservoir of treasures, talents and opportunities.
Mohammad, also from Barabanki, learnt the trade skills from zari workshops in Lucknow. Both Mohammad and Jitendra arrived in Hyderabad just six months ago searching for good prospects and higher wages. Hyderabad provided better avenues for them to earn a decent profit. In their hometown, they got only Rs 300 per day for working for 13 to 14 hours a day. On the other hand, Hyderabad provides them with a payment of Rs 600 to Rs 800 for 8 hours of work.
Mohammad says that he has been working in this profession from 13 to 14 years and was taught Urdu Studies at a Madrasa. In the past, he wanted to study further but took up a job due to family responsibilities. He lives alone in a small room far away from his family. He misses home and wants to bring them here. Currently, Mohammed is in his early 30s and wants to move on from just being a maggam worker. He hopes to open an embroidery shop in the next one to two years in Hyderabad.
There are a lot of maggam shops in the area, and one can spot a few even on the first and second floors of some buildings. The buildings in the street are mostly in mixed-use land. Commercial activities are mostly confined to the ground and first floor while the upper floors are for residential purposes. The boards and hoardings of maggam shops, like Sana Maggam Works with props hanging outside the windows of the first, second and even third floors show the popularity of the maggam.
Maggam is not just a story of embroidery but an ecosystem that Ameerpet created within itself. There are many allied works associated with maggam, and it is only a part of the symbiosis of the street. This symbiosis dates back to the oldest cloth and embroidery material shop in the area, Bhagyalaxmi Cloth Materials. Introducing this store caused catalytic sprouting of tailoring shops apart from other embroidery stores. This chain reaction further provided fertile grounds for maggam and also for other different types of cloth merchants. On one occasion we witnessed men sharpening their knives and scissors in the locality which further adds an activity in this diverse ecosystem.
At Bhagyalaxmi Cloth Materials, Bharti seems confident and calm while displaying the embroidery material to a customer. She instinctively knows the best colour that will suit a customer. When we approached her for an interview, she looked excited but remembered that she also has a customer to cater. Daughter of a farmer, Bharti, 26, has worked in the shop for five years. She is unmarried and has completed her middle-schooling. Uninterested in pursuing further studies, she wants to provide support to her family in Bapatla, Andhra Pradesh. Currently, she stays in a hostel and gets a monthly salary of 8000 rupees. She added that she also gets paid for overtime and Sundays. Out of this amount, she supports the education of her elder brother and younger sister while also contributing to the family income.
The shop remains open from 10 am to 8 pm. Being the oldest textile store in the area, it contributes massively to the income of local embroidery stores. This makes Bhagyalakshmi Cloth Material a quintessential component of the ecosystem surrounding it. When asked if she felt satisfied with the safety and environment of the street, she responded with a smile stating that “she is ok with the environment and workplace”. Behind her, the shop owner’s 5-year-old son sits on the master chair whenever the owner is absent. Either he was overconfident on Bharti’s trustworthiness, or the child was placed to surveil her actions.
Lying adjacent to the metro is a tiny corner street shop called A to Z Alterations. At first glance, it appears to be like any non-descript tailoring shop with piles of clothes hanging from its fringes and a radio occasionally playing a melody or two. Observing this social setting left me pleasantly surprised. Set up using discarded materials, like old paan shop’s set up and old telephone exchange box. Mr S K Ahmed utilized most of the space he could. When asked why he opted for alterations instead of tailoring he replied “Yahan footpath mein karobar accha he. Garib bhi aata he aur Ameer bhi ata he. Apna kaam chal jata he” (On the footpath the business is good. Both rich and poor come here and my business works easily). He said that he found this business more profitable than both tailoring and maggam. According to him, many need alterations, so it is a reliable work. We were quite impressed with his visiting card and website.
Further in the street, there are many shops catering to embroidery, tailoring, boutiques and beauty parlours. Maggam has also provided a good market for these businesses. Due to the versatility of this ecosystem, there is no loss incurred between customers at beauty parlours, textiles and jewellery stores. A large female demographic visit the numerous beauty parlours and maggam textiles, creating a busy neighbourhood and ample work opportunities of work for the youth.
This street, feels like a city within itself, supported by the abundant ecosystem of hostels (especially for girls), multiple tailoring and maggam stores, surrounding food and fruit stalls, messes, general stores, lock makers, and various other service providers adding to job opportunities for the youth.
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