By Sutapa Mukerjee
Correspondent in Varanasi
"With our business coming to an end my six children have turned into beggars," says Razia Biwi, wife of a silk weaver in the northern city of Varanasi.
The decline of the industry has taken a terrible toll
"They move from door to door with a bowl each and eat whatever the kind neighbours give them."
The Varanasi silk industry is in turmoil.
For centuries it has produced exquisite handloom silk. Of India's 10m weavers, this city - also known as Benaras - in Uttar Pradesh boasts nearly 13%.
Varanasi silk fabrics have been eulogised in scriptures and ancient books both in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
Silk-embroidered saris became an art form during the Mughal period in the 16th Century.
Since then they have been in great demand during festive seasons and marriages in all Indian families.
But the opening up of international trade with China has spelt the end for many Varanasi weavers.
Mohammed Umar, 45, is in despair. After he was compelled to shut his loom, he looked for other options to make a living.
Having found no job, he resorted to selling his blood on a regular basis.
"It's illegal but what else could I do?" he asks. "I had to earn something to feed myself."
But even this gory trade came to an end when he discovered it had resulted in him contracting tuberculosis. These days he relies on the generosity of his brother to survive.
The problems started in 1995, when demand for Varanasi silk suddenly dwindled.
There was a sudden influx of Chinese silk traders, who imported cheap yarn to the local market.
They even competed against Varanasi traders by hiring local weavers from the city.
Chinese silk has badly affected the market
Until then, Varanasi saris ruled the market and people from far and wide would visit the city to purchase the saris.
The saris are made out of silk yarns woven in handlooms or power looms. Exquisite motifs in silver and gold are woven into them by an intricate process.
But their skills have not saved the weavers.
Many struggle for existence in appalling poverty.
Razia Biwi's husband, Nurool Haque, was once a well-off weaver, but his business gradually came to a standstill.
He sold their only property while Razia sold her wedding jewellery.
"How long will the money last?" asks Razia, as her husband lies groaning in a corner of the room. He has been suffering with many ailments due to malnutrition.
Hardly a single weaver has a happy story to tell.
In another area, Kotwan, Ghulam Rasool was forced to sell their two-month-old son, Subhan Ali.
"Being jobless, it became too difficult for us to feed our seven children," he says.
"We thought it best to sell our son to a rich family where he would get his daily meals," he says.
Their story touched the village and with its help, along with police intervention, they got back their son along with a sum of 10,000 rupees ($220) compensation from the government.
Rajan Bhal, general secretary of the Varanasi Cloth Industry, says: "This was one isolated case in the entire town where the government came to the family's rescue.
"The government otherwise seems uninterested in reviving this traditional art in the city."