The intricate stoneware and God idols at Kalu Pal’s stall at Surajkund International Crafts Mela 2017 are leaving visitors in awe of his carving skills.The artisan, however, doesn’t look too happy to have travelled all the way to Faridabad from Jharkhand, for when he unwrapped his pieces, he found many of them, well... in pieces. “I travelled more than 500 km to reach Faridabad,” says the 55-year-old from Jharkhand’s Bagdah village in Dumka district.
“I boarded a bus from my village to the Dumka region and then from Ranchi caught a train to Delhi. For this, I paid Rs 125 till Ranchi, to be able to carry along more than 50 kg of handicrafts with me. All the stones that I carve to make artefacts are quite heavy. Some artworks have got chipped and some have even cracked and got damaged on the way. And here I am in Delhi, where everyone wants to bargain like anything. I might have to go back home without profit. I’m can still do without profit, but don’t want to bear a loss,” adds Pal.
Hundreds of craftspersons travel from across India to this annual fest with hopes of making some money for their families. Sheroz Ahmed, a 32-year-old from Bulandshahar, Uttar Pradesh says, “This is the second time I have set up a stall in this mela but due to poor travelling arrangements, most of our crafts have suffered. Since I work in ceramics, many of my articles have got broken. Both the times, I had to book a personal carriage for my products. The government doesn’t pay us for the travel and carriage, neither for the damage.”
At this confluence of crafts that provides a platform to local artisans, it isn’t just the damage of finished artefacts but even raw materials that lowers the morale of participants. Some end up paying extra out of their pockets to cover up for the loss.
Madhubani artist Jeetu Bhatt, 45, says, “We haven’t calculated the loss we faced at the time of travel. It’s heartbreaking to observe that most of my wooden artworks have got damaged and I had to rework on them, which increased the cost of making. And then, since I have to rework and repaint, I have to buy colours and raw material from Delhi and other markets nearby. The material here is way too expensive. Yet, buyers at the mela don’t appreciate the hardwork. All they want is to haggle the price. Nothing, so far, has been sold for a good price. I might not want to participate next year.”