I met a family. In fact, a special family it was. No way can I obliterate it from my mind scape.
The other day we were driving on Rajpura, Chandīgarh highway, on our way to visit Chandigarh. Dear hubby was at the wheel, so I had all the time to look around.There was much hustle and bustle, constantly moving motley crowd and din of vehicular traffic.
Suddenly a couple of rows of artefacts arranged neatly on the berm of the road came into a fleeting view. I got curious. Abruptly, I requested my hubby to halt for a while, though he hates to stop in between a short journey. He slowed down, I got out and walked back a few yards and saw a shabby tent on a small piece of dry land, with sundry articles strewn around. In the midst of that disorder, there was the presence of a whole lot of artistically made figurines of young couples in romantic poses, beautiful young maidens with flower baskets in their arms, vases with leaves and flowers sculpted on the outside and many more exquisitely made pieces with plastic of Paris. Some pieces were painted and ready for sale. Some were drying in the sun. I could also see some wet material lying in a dented iron bowl and some dirty blue colored plastic containers filled with water.
The picture of poverty was unambiguously palpable in the surroundings. Yet I could not help marveling at the honed skill of these abjectly poor artisans. The man of the family was no more than a boy with white powder smeared on his hands, face, and all over his clothes. There was a tiny girl moving around, attired only in a soiled sweater and with naked bottoms. Another child, I saw crawling inside the tent equally begrimed. Then a comely girl wearing a threadbare sari appeared from nowhere. She was the mother of the tiny tots.
It was painful to see a couple so young and having such artistry not being able to make both ends meet and living as it were from hand to mouth. So poor that they could not afford to buy a few clothes for the little one. When I told the man that I intended to take pictures of the art pieces he was happy but lamented “Dhanda nahi chal raha" (there are no sales) and that he had no money to buy even food stuff. It was intriguing to make out how a couple had magic in their nimble fingers and possessed sharp creative imagination in spite of being illiterate. It was simply mesmerizing. Moreover, it was hard to envision that dismal poverty and artistic talent could coexist. However, it happens all the time.
I took the pictures and left but the image disturbed me. I kept thinking how such people could be helped. The following views came to my mind.
Mainly such families are from Rajasthan and temporarily settle for the season in Punjab around the highways where they sell their products to commuters passing through. They don’t earn enough to subsist but carry on.The authorities do take measures to encourage these folk artists by arranging fairs and other outlets periodically but these help only the smarter ones. The bulk remains unrepresented.
The NGOs can help by enabling them to market their creations to big business houses or to specific outlets.These people can be trained professionally in better coloring techniques and perfect finish for attracting sales. Such statues and decorative pieces can fetch a lot of money in foreign lands, where there is much more appreciation for arts and crafts.
Friends, what are your views on the subject.