Kalpana Barman

Petticoat tailor switched to masks to beat lockdown blues

Kalpana Barman, 38, had two weapons that helped her survive the lockdown: her trusty sewing machine and her grit. When the government ordered a lockdown on March 24 to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, her business almost sank.

Kalpana, who lives in Jorpatki village in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district, has a tailoring shop and also sells readymade garments. She makes nighties, blouses and petticoats, which she sells to local shops and to wholesalers.

With markets closed, supply chains disrupted and customers staying indoors or reluctant to spend, Kalpana faced a financial crisis. She had borrowed Rs 40,000 from Village Financial Services under its Sri Briddhi package for small business, which is a step up from entry-level microfinance, and was in her 4th loan cycle. She had used the money to buy a stock of readymade garments that she sells at her shop.

Her farmer-husband was also sitting at home. He cultivates jute, for which the harvest season started in June, and some tobacco. Her children (a son,12, and a daughter, 8) were stuck at home during the lockdown as their school was closed.

Kalpana, who had studied up to Class XI before she got married, pondered her options calmly and decided to make masks. After all, the government was making it mandatory to wear masks in public, and everyone—rich or poor—needed a mask.

She now makes colourful masks out of the muslin that she had bought to make petticoats and nighties. She uses patterns that she sees in the market and sells the masks to neighbours and to shops.

Kalpana, a customer of VFS’ Mathabhanga branch, has a clean record with VFS. She cleared all dues promptly when the government announced Unlock-1.

Updated on Sep 2, 2020