* Chip Of The Old Block

(As told by our block printer, Krishna)

In the late-70s, Bengaluru was a hub of block printing. Multi-coloured block-printed silk sarees were prominent, & they were made famous by many yesteryear actresses.

As a teenager, I worked at a block printing factory owned by Mahalingam. As I used to accompany him, I knew he used to buy his blocks from a Muslim gentleman called "Achcha Bhai" (we called him Achcha Bhai because his designs/blocks were too good) & he used to come from Farukabad on a train with his trunk full of blocks made from Sheesham wood, & used to call all his clients to his hotel room in the Majestic area.

More than 2 dozen block printing factories sheltered 1000s of workers. Printed sarees were so famous that many retailers in the Chickpet area made tons of money. Soon, the IT department raided many of these stores, which led to dismal work in the printing factories.

Due to loan default, our printing unit was seized by the bank. Eventually, the officers auctioned the blocks without knowing their value. Some of the unpaid factory workers had pedalled away a few blocks & the rest of them were bought by small factories during auctioning.

Meanwhile, the Govt department started shutting down printing units & driving us away from the city citing environmental concerns. None of us had the resources to install a water-treatment facility.

Many factories shut down & sold the wooden blocks. The simpler blocks sold fast & Atul Sait bought the more complex ones as he had a factory in the Adugodi area. He eventually sold his business, unable to withstand the competition from screen printers. My cousin Loknath bought those blocks & started a unit in the Bommanahalli area. By then, the finest carved multi-coloured blocks were orphaned & chipped.

A few years back, my cousin settled abroad. One of his workers bought all the blocks & started his unit in Begur. Since his workplace flooded due to heavy rains, his family decided to discard the blocks, & that's when I bought & restored them.

These blocks were lying unutilized for a few years as they aren't in vogue, but I am glad you are using them.

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