Bijayashanti Tongbram extracting fabric from lotus to make beautiful products like neckties, scarves and mufflers (Pics. Courtesy Twitter/@NaveedIRS)
She truly personifies the new young India as Bijayashanti Tongbram used whatever opportunity came her way to help herself and others earn a livelihood. This young entrepreneur from Manipur, made the headlines thanks to her Lotus Yarn and the diverse and beautiful products she makes from them, including neckties, scarves and mufflers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned her in his Mann Ki Baat on September 27, 2020 and praised her for making fibres from lotus stem that she collected from Loktak Lake in Moirang, Manipur.
Incidentally, Loktak is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the Northeast region and boasts of lotus in large numbers.
A botany graduate, Tongbram’s father is Joykumar Tangram and her mother is Sanahal Tongram and she is belongs to the Thanga Tongbram village, which is close to Loktak lake.
Following her graduation from GP Women’s College, Imphal, in 2014, unable to venture in tourism sector due to lack of finances she experimented with lotus and its medicinal attributes. During this time she worked on finding alternative uses of lotus and the possibility of making products from its fibre.
It was in 2019 in May, she began spinning yarn from lotus stems and weaving neckties, mufflers, etc. In this she was helped by some women of her locality. Following this she established “Sanajing Sana Thambal”, which employs women in lotus yarn production while teaching them how to make a living by its production. Her enterprise was selected as "Start-Up Manipur" by the industry department.
Along with her team Tongbram breaks the lotus stem at the length of a thumb and pulls and expands the fibre from the lotus stem. The fibre is then hand-rolled in a desired size by using palms of the hand and a wooden plank.
Though a tedious process it yields a golden yarn which brings good income.
Though not as strong as Muga silk, products made from lotus yarn look as good as the ones made from silk. Clothes made from lotus stem are in great demand world over and now Tongbram has started sending her products to Delhi, Bengaluru and Gujarat.