By Aditi Priya:
I took out my camera to capture the finesse of the art of drawing out amazing shapes from the dead soil, the rhythmic movement of the hands, gentle tapping at the edge of the structure to make it perfect. As I proceeded closer to the potter family, they welcomed me with a smile.
Sarita Devi and Ganaur Pandit are residents of Dighi panchayat in Vaishali district of Bihar. When I visited them, they were busy making small, pretty and perfect ‘diyas’.
They started their work for Diwali about a month ago. They have five children – three sons and two daughters. I asked them how much earned in a month, to which they replied- about Rs. 5000, that too in peak season. They engage themselves in making earthen pots, diyas, kitchen sets for kids, bells and many other clay items.
I also asked them how much they were expecting to earn this Diwali, to which their answer was- ‘ye sab Chinese batti ke karan ab to jo ho bikri hota tha wo ho nai hota hai ab, sab badka chotka sabke ghar me khali batti laga lete he aur dipli aa chookah kauno nahi kharidta hai‘ (due to all those Chinese lights available in the market, everyone including the rich and the poor are decorating their houses with them, and so nobody buys diyas nowadays. Those who do, do it for the sake of it, nothing else).
Madhav Kumhar was moulding diyas on his wheel while Sita Devi went inside to bring some samples of their creations. While I was talking to Madhav about his experience, I saw his 8 year old daughter giving final touches to the bells she made. Sita came out of house with all those pretty creations in the wooden basket.
Those were perfectly shaped and coloured with bright colours, but when Sita brought out the clay pots and diya, I asked for their price. I was shocked to know that they sell pots for Rs 10 per piece, 50 Diyas for Rs 5, kitchen sets for Rs 5 per piece.
The above two cases are just a small example of the living condition of small- scale workers in India. I remember when I once went to a shop selling ‘trendy’ clay items; the same pots that I saw at Sita’s place were being sold at a minimum cost of Rs. 120. And the same diyas were for Rs. 20 to 30 per piece, depending upon the colour combination of the material.
We wait throughout the year to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, but they wait for it to earn a respectful amount of money and in the hope that their art will be treated with respect.