You could call Wen Kunrong, a 54-year-old Chinese woman, a devotee of Hindu God Krishna, but she would rather be called his 'gopi' (consort). She has collected nearly 20,000 idols of her favourite deity, not just from across India but from different countries.
Kunrong, who runs a restaurant at China Town in eastern Kolkata, is a passionate collector of Krishna idols since 1974. Ancestors of many residents in the area migrated from southern China in the 19th century. Kunrong's family has been here for five generations.
"It was my 20th birthday and a Bengali friend gifted me a tiny stone idol of Krishna. As soon as I looked into the eyes of the idol I felt a soul connection with him. It seemed as if I am born for him. Since then my Krishna hunt is on. All I look out for anywhere I go is Krishna and I can't control myself on seeing his idol," Kunrong told IANS.
Kunrong has a collection of 19,366 Krishna idols but none of Krishna, Hinduism's most popular divinity, with his beloved Radha.
"I am too possessive about my Krishna and fantasise myself as Radha as well as Meera (Krishna's famous devotee). Despite being a Chinese, every day I read translations of Bhagavad Gita (a book containing Krishna's teachings) and also worship him. Every year during Janmashtami (Krishna's birth anniversary) there is an elaborate ceremony at my place," Kunrong said.
She has collected Krishna idols not only from across India but also from different countries.
"I have collected idols from almost every corner of India, including Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mathura, Vrindaban, Mumbai, Chennai, as well as from Tibet, Nepal, China, Australia, America, Japan, Costa Rica and Spain," Kunrong said.
"My addiction to Krishna has made me want to capture him in all possible moods and I christen them as I wish - Hanging Krishna, Angel Krishna, Baby-face Krishna, Flute-less Krishna, Swan-rider Krishna, Buddha-Krishna, Laddu-Gopal and Makhan-chor Gopal are some of them," Kunrong said.
When it comes to getting a Krishna idol, Kunrong makes her pick from roadside stalls to shopping malls.
"Most of the idols I picked up are either from street hawkers or roadside stalls. Some are from shopping malls and curio shops as well. And obviously, knowing of my passion for Krishna, I get similar gifts from friends and relatives too.
"I don't go by the price tag while getting a Krishna idol. Prices for the idols in my collection range from Rs.10 to Rs.100,000. I am a single woman and don't have a family as such. So whatever I earn is for Krishna," Kunrong added.
(Sreya Basu can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )