Mr. Padmanabhan Gopinathan: Most of us are born to lead a life that is ordinary and more or less self-centered. But, as we know, there are exceptions to this common state of affairs. Mr. Padmanabhan Gopinathan hailing from a weavers' village near Balaramapuram near the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram is one such personality, who eventually became a guardian angel for the weaving community in that region.
The sixty-year-old master weaver was recently honoured with India's coveted civilian honour 'Padmashree' and the honour truly justifies the man's commitment for a common cause that he had lived for, till now. What started as a means of livelihood for Mr. P. Gopinathan, while he was attending school, later saw him becoming a role model for handloom weavers in and around his native place called Manchavilakam near Balaramapuram.
Initiated into weaving by his father while he was studying in school, just because the family needed extra income, Mr. Gopinathan obediently took up his father's request. Besides getting trained under his father, Mr. Gopinathan was also trained by the 80 odd other weavers who were trained by his father. Those were the days when the handloom sector was breathing a sigh of relief following the withdrawal of restrictions on weaving imposed by the British rulers. But, the scenario was yet to improve, especially on matters of wages and this prompted the young Gopinathan to try his luck in the neighbouring Nagercoil. This happened towards the end of 1950s. Gopinathan later moved to Madurai, where he learned the intricacies of setting up looms. This was followed by a brief stint in Salem, where he got good exposure in the art and science of applying colours and dyeing.
One of his brother-in-laws' death brought him back to his native place and he then decided to stay back and work from his native place. This was the beginning of an arduous and fulfilling journey that started with a modest three looms, set up on a small piece of land gifted by one of Gopinathan's disciples. In a shack raised on that land he raised his children and also worked as a weaver. Soon Gopinathan had many local people from all communities approaching him to learn weaving and he did not disappoint a single one of them. He trained them free of cost. Soon with the support of a leading businessman at Balaramapuram, Gopinathan bought 80 cents of land at his native place and set up 300 looms over a period of six years.
With Mr. Gopinathan's efforts becoming successful, the mahila samajams (women's self-help-groups) started by him increased to over 27 in his village. The women members of these self-help-groups now have a decent job and means to take care of their families. The outcome of this can be seen today at the sprawling 1000 odd looms set up under the banner of Ecotex near his native place Manchavilakam.
In the art and science of weaving, Mr. Gopinathan has very clear understanding, approach and application. He is a strict disciplinarian when it comes to workmanship' be it the process of weaving, procuring of quality threads and preparing the threads through various stages like boiling, applying of glue and dyeing. One of the most essential know-how that he wants all youngsters who are into weaving to have is a thorough understanding of the principles behind erecting a loom. This warrants understanding of certain measures on the floor using thread and the manner in which it has to be done. And if the basic calculations err at any point, then the loom erected would be of no use to the weaver.
Mr. Padmanabhan Gopinathan has spent his entire life trying to salvage the lives of others, often overlooking his personal sufferings. His blood and sweat were shed for the welfare of the weaving community of his village for the past five decades, especially empowering thousands of women through handloom weaving.
Keralites have proved their deligence and extra ordinary brillience through out the world. Keralites are well known for their honesty and efficiency in all fields. In the list of Prominent Personalities we have tried to include all famous personalities from Kerala. We are trying to collect the details of the rest. If you have the details of any such personalities, please send to us.