Ei dekhun bati, er daam 30 taka. Aar ei dekhun kanta chamoch, er daam 20 taka. Kiney niye jaan. E to aapnader barite laage. Kothao gele gift hisabe niye jaan. (This is a bowl. It will be yours for Rs. 30 only. And this is a fork that costs only Rs. 20. Please come forward and pick them up. You would need them both at home and can also gift them to somebody.)
With these words the saleswoman holds aloft the items one by one. Perhaps a little breathless, as she addresses the audience gathered at the spot, proceeding to canvass for other items such as cups, plates and dhokra gift items. Sounds like an average vendor at a moving train, or bus, or at a street corner?
Hold your breath, the handicraft artists of Bengal, the neglected torchbearers of traditional art of the state, found an ardent saleswoman of their wares on Saturday afternoon as chief minister Mamata Banerjee turned into a vendor at a handicrafts fair at Milan Mela grounds.
For several minutes during her inaugural speech, Mamata got into hardsell mode, describing each miniature item in detail, the materials used to make them and the benefits attached to them.
Mamata displayed a bowl made of wood, a fork made of coconut fibre, a small tabla set made of grains and hay, and a small set of cup and dish made of mud to prove her point.
“In the old days, people used to relish tea in cups made of wood and mud. The artisans are recreating that magic,” said Mamata.
A dhokra item depicting a child on a mother’s lap especially caught her attention and she went on to recite one of Tagore’s pieces holding the item. Dhokra items are made of copper and the name comes from Dhokra Damar tribes, mainly concentrated in Bankura district, who specialise in making such objects.
“I came here 15 minutes before schedule so that I could move around the stalls and buy a few items just to present them before you. I would like to give away these items as gifts to foreign delegates who visit the state,” Mamata said.
Banerjee also exhorted industrialists to buy the items from weavers at cheaper rates and sell them to their customers at relatively higher prices. “It’s a good business prospect for industrialists and will also ensure that weavers get to sell most of their items,” the chief minister said.