Innovations AP / CH Mallesham


Innovator: CH Mallesham
Innovation: Laxmi Asu machine
Cell No: +919247282778



Can I reduce Pain of my Mother?? Story of Lakshmi Asu Machine.

Being from a handloom silk weavers’ family of Pochampally tradition, I learnt to work on looms from my tenth year, as was the tradition in all handloom weavers’ families. I studied while working on looms. The process of “Asu” is essential for this type of sarees. Entire design on the sarees is totally dependent on this process. Traditionally, ladies of the family perform this activity. In our house, my mother used to do the asu for the loom operated by father and me. This process involves moving hand over a space of one meter for 9000 times for one saree. It also demands high concentration and accuracy. Each saree requires five hours of such labor. In a day at the maximum, my mother used to work for 8 hours moving her hena to and fro, for God alone knows how many number of times. At the end of the day, she used to suffer from excruciating pain in her right shoulder. One day, having suffered silently for many years, my mother said with tears rolling from her eyes, “Son! Enough, I cannot do this any more. The pain in my shoulder is increasing by the day. Please get out of handloom weaving. At least your would-be wife need not suffer the way I suffered”, she lamented. That was the first time that I understood the pain the ladies in these families undergo, undergo silently.

What are the options that I have? Leave handloom and do what? Do I have any other skill? Is Asu the cause for many weavers leaving I questioned myself. Can I not reduce the pain of my mother?, These were the questions that bothered me. Deep within, I had a feeling that I can find a solution. When I shared this with my family members and friends, they laughed at me. “All these years, no one ever attempted to do this, how do you think that you can do it? You are not even intermediate passed?” said my friends. Yes! True! I am not formally educated. But what has that to do with trying. Most of my friends are educated. They have never attempted anything like this. No! Education has nothing to do with original thinking and creativity. That is all. I decided to make a machine for Asu process.

When there is a power loom to replace manual loom, why not a mechanical device to replace my mother’s slog, I thought? I was 20 years by then and I was mostly stuck to my home. I had no technical knowledge but a strong desire to develop a machine for Asu inspired me and led me further. I started working on the idea and divided the entire process into five different activities. Part by part, I developed and fitted mechanical devices to a wooden frame. Since I do not know the right parts, lot of money was wasted in buying incorrect spares. Wait till you earn and save and redo, was the mantra. I was weaving in the day and worked on my dream machine in the nights. I went through huge troughs and small peaks for four years.

That was the time I was married. I was 24 years old then. For one year I could not pursue my latent desire but my thoughts became more consolidated and I started believing more and more in the success of the Asu machine. I discussed with my wife and used the money given by her parents and completed successfully three parts. I spent whatever little money I had. I stopped weaving and spent more time on Asu machine. As my savings dried up, I looked around for loans. I was unsuccessful in raising loan, but how one could repay the loans? Some people helped and extended small loans. Having completed a major portion, I reached a stage where I did not know what to do, what devices to fit and where to raise money. I needed some technological and also financial help. By then, my family was fed up with my activity. They were hurt by the fact that those who extended loans were making frequent visits to our home and this was not a pleasant scene socially to the family. My father told me, “Put an end to this madness. I can not see your mother and your wife in a state of hunger due to your mad pursuit”. In shear disgust, I moved to Hyderabad in search of work, worked with an electrical contractor on daily wages for a year. Money earned was sent home and after a year I shifted the unfinished machine to Hyderabad and fitted in the rented room I was living. All this while, I sustained the zeal to realize my dream. I worked part time, earned more money. I slowly started using this additional money on buying parts and tried out on the machine. It was almost ready except for one movement. I was at a blind alley and do not know how to provide such movement and what parts required for such activity. This involved the thread to go round the stem and slide down to the last perfectly. This took long time and I was not making headway.
One day, I went

to work in a machine shop in Balanagar area in Secunderabad. There were many machines, which interested me. I observed each one of them. In one machine I noticed a movement similar to what I required in my machine. Studied the movement, made mental notes and rushed to a workshop, got the part made and like a child, excitement in my heart, reached my rented room and fitted the component to the machine. With prayer on my lips, I operated the machine and Hurray!! It worked. I disassembled the machine next day and went to a friend’s house in Aler, reassembled the machine and demonstrated the machine by processing of Asu for one saree. My friend used it to weave and was very happy with the quality, which is better than that obtained through hand operated Asu process. The news spread like wild fire and there was a beeline at my friend’s house to see the Asu machine. I think History was made that day.

Later, I converted some mechanical parts to electronic ones and thus my Asu machine was ready and I named it after my mother who was my inspiration. It is Lakshmi Asu Machine.

Impact of Innovation:
The Impact of Asu machine is phenomenal. It in one stroke removed the capacity constraint of Pochampally silk saree tradition. It provided new work centres, moved women to hitherto male domain weaving activity, girls were sent to college as they are no longer required to perform Asu manually at home. Girls were married to those houses where Asu machine was available. The quality and complexity of designs improved substantially. With Asu machine, husband and wife started producing 12 sarees a month against 8 sarees earlier.

Asu machine is one such grassroots innovation, which made san unparallel impact to the weavers involved in weaving silk sarees for Pochampally tradition.

Nominated for the Award by Palle Srujana
President: Brig (Retd) P Ganesham, VSM


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