Pottery, an underpaying profession, makes surviving a struggle in Delhi
New Delhi : Thirty-two-year-old Geeta sits patiently, painting pots created by her husband in the small open porch in her house at Kumhar Gram or Potters’ Village that interestingly has managed to find space in West Delhi’s Uttam Nagar.
Geeta says she desperately awaits for the Diwali season (October-November) every year, when it is boom time for the potters, who labour from dawn to dusk in the days leading up to the festival.
“Diwali is a boon for us,” Geeta told IANS, pointing to the four-fivefold rise in income during that time — against the average income of Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000 per month during the rest of the year.
Leela Ram Prajapati, who has been a potter for the last 30 years, concurred. “We get maximum work during Diwali.”
Packed with magnificent ceramics, as also idols, vessels, artefacts and other items crafted out of mud, the narrow lanes of Kumhar Gram boast of a great deal of talent and artistry among the more than 400 families that have been settled in the locality since the 1970s.
Harikishan, whose efforts led to the creation of the colony, won a National Award in 1990. Today, as many as 12 potters at Kumhar Gram have been similarly honoured.
Despite these achievements and the talent they inherited from their ancestors, a majority of the potters in the colony do not want the future generation to continue with their profession because of the lack of facilities and the low income generated through the year, except for the month of Diwali.
“I don’t want my children to take up my profession when they grow up. I want them to do a fine job,” Pooja, a 34-year-old potter said, adding there was a huge problem managing the family expenditure on an income of Rs 10,000-Rs 15,000 in a month.
The potters had another grouse. While agriculturists in particular welcome the monsoon as it impacts their yields it often has quite the opposite impact on potters.
“Sometimes, the unbaked items get destroyed in the rain,” a potter said, adding there is no enough space inside the houses to accommodate all of what they have crafted but which hasn’t gone through the ‘bhatti” (ovn).
They also expressed anger at the rise of Chinese goods in the market.
“Due to the increasing flood of Chinese items, our sale is going down day by day. It affects our livelihood,” said Tarachand, a 48-year-old potter.
Even so, given their belief in karma, they labour on.
(Richa Sharma is an Intern at IANS)