I want to debunk urban concept of the idea of India: Jaya Jaitly

Updated on Dec 01, 2019 04:23 PM IST
Jaitly’s strong understanding of how things work and a deep passion for our country’s art and culture helped her weave the success story of Dastkari Haat Samiti crafted over the past decades.
Jaya Jaitly, poses for a picture at a flea market in Pune.(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)
Jaya Jaitly, poses for a picture at a flea market in Pune.(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)
Hindustan Times, Pune | ByNamita Shibad

Pune She is responsible for bringing India’s arts and handicrafts out of the forgotten corners of our lives on to the centre stage. Her strong understanding of how things work and a deep passion for our country’s art and culture helped her weave the success story of Dastkari Haat Samiti crafted over the past decades.

Jaya Jaitly, the motivating and inspiring force behind the initiative, attended the inauguration of Dastkari Haat organised at Monalisa Kalagram in the city recently. At least 100 artisans from across India are exhibiting their products. The artisans know her personally and walk in and out of the office chatting with her like she is a family member.

Forgotten, untapped

“There is so much skill, talent in our country. I first saw this when I was in Jammu and Kashmir in the mid-sixties. In the Mughal era, art was for courtly use and not for ‘aam aadmi’ and the Brits came and destroyed that. But our culture is such that every piece of art has a meaning and context. Nothing is done just for art

“So a Kanjeevaram sari will be woven for the goddess, and the walls of the temple will need to be adorned with paintings or murals and so on. Everything in our culture has a deep meaning. Urbanisation has led people to perhaps feel that it’s not secular to show your religious identity, so they no longer visited places of worship. They do not follow the traditions like they do in the villages. A Muslim artisan will make products for a temple and a Hindu will do the same for a mosque. True secularism exists there. I want to debunk this urban concept of the idea of India. They really have no clue, only a voice, sadly. Add to that was industrialisation that brought cheaper, synthetic mass produced goods to the markets. And the arts and crafts saw a slow but sure decline,” she said.

In the spotlight

To infuse life into our dying arts, Jaya understood early on that they needed a market. That they had to compete with mass produced goods. “I had to work on both the demand and supply side. The carpenter who would make goods for the weaver who would give him fabric was now not possible. So I asked the artisans to make their goods contemporary. Why not design the cycle rickshaw in ways where the person could find it easy to keep his bags? And put double chains so the ‘driver’ would find it easy to cycle? Or why not use a Madhubani painting on aluminium kettles? We had to bring the village to the cities.

“The artisans who would eat their meals sitting on the floor could not even understand the concept of a table mat. So I encouraged them to make items that the city dwellers would use,” she said.

At the same time she sensitised the city folk about how the artisans worked. And how their purchase would help their lives. “We told them that their purchase would help them get their daughter married off or get a roof over their house. That they could not produce goods like factories do, when the summers are brutal the Odissa artist work from 5 am to 10 am and then sleep in the afternoons because it’s too hot to venture out. Then at 5 pm they again take up the painting or weaving,” she said.

The Dastkari Haat Samiti organises four haats (markets) every year for artisans. “Whatever they sell is theirs. The last Dilli Haat saw participation of 200 artisans and a turnover of 6.5 crore. Our samiti charges them a membership fee with which we run our expenses. We have 500 members of whom some are individuals or represent an organisation,” she said.

Time was when the children of these artisans would refuse to take up their parents’ profession. Jaya said, “Now we have cases of young men who go to the cities to work in factories and return home to take up their father’s profession. Most of our members are fourth generation artisans.”

The sign proves that all is well in the art industry. So what does the future hold?

Market opportunities

Jaya said, “Making products and selling from a store is fine, but I feel that their art should find different uses. How about builders using handmade bricks and tiles in their projects? Or bamboo lattice for the outer verandah walls? People use glass which is so damaging to the environment since it then needs air-conditioning. Making decorative jewellery boxes is fine, but how about using say Warli or Madhubani painting in designing the Metro, schools, commercial interiors? Craftspeople need the revenues, but they also need respect, a livelihood, not 9-5 jobs. Other professionals should collaborate with craftspeople to find different uses for their work.”

Kotpad – crafting grains

Harekrishna Naik from Korapat, Orissa, is a farmer who grows rice on his 1.5 acre farm. “My forefathers used to make these Kotpad figurines, but we had stopped this since there was no demand. It was only made for our home temple.” In 2014, Harekrishna on a whim started making Kotpad Laxmi made with grains and used thread instead of wool as was the custom. “I made about 3-inch Laxmi and Ganesh idols and took them to the Korapat market held every Monday,” he said.

His idols generated a lot of interest. Soon he was making hundreds of them daily. He took them out of his village market to Jagdalpur, Raipur and later met Jaitly, who took his products to the Dilli Haat. “My fields give us rice to eat and these Kotpad idols look after our other needs.” He wants to teach people to make these items which sell like hot cakes. “I sell about 400-500 a day. I want to teach people to make these ‘sticks ‘ where we tie the grains to a bamboo shoot but not many want to. I want to outsource the making of these ‘sticks’ so that I can then quickly make idols or anything else. I can even buy it from people wh0 will make it.”

Madhubani – painting stories of life

Raymant Kumar Mishra is the fifth generation Madhubani painter in his family. “As a five-year-old, I would fill colours in the painting that my grandmother made. At 10, I learnt the details and also got a scholarship from the Central Cultural Training Research Centre, Government of India. They paid me 200 to learn and my grandmother 300 to teach. I did go to school, but this was far more interesting.”

In 2017, he was invited to paint the walls of the Madhubani railway station. “225 of us were invited and we collectively painted 16,000 sq ft,” he said. Later, we started receiving orders. “The district magistrate asked me to paint the Ramayan at the Circuit House and so on,” he said. His colours soon found their way onto tea pots, bags, file folders, matkas and dupattas.

With the exposure he got from Datskari Haat, word spread and he was invited to do a workshop in Italy and Mauritius. “My whole family, parents, wife, children uncles, cousins are all into Madhubani paintings. My wife also teaches Madhubani paintings to children for free. We want to spread our paintings far and wide.”

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Baskar is the seventh AIADMK leader to face DVAC raids since DMK returned to power in 2021. (HT PHOTO)

    Disproportionate assets case: AIADMK leader KPP Baskar’s premises raided

    Opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader KPP Baskar is accused of amassing a wealth of Rs 4.72 crore or 315% more than his known sources of income. A former legislator from Namakkal, Baskar, is seen to be close to former chief minister and AIADMK's interim general secretary Edappadi Palaniswami. He is the seventh AIADMK leader to face DVAC raids since Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) returned to power in May 2021.

  • CCTV footage of the attack - shared by news agency ANI - showed the group of around 10 people attacking Jatin, aged 17, and Ajay, aged 42.

    Delhi: A group could not find man they were looking for; thrash 2 others| Video

    Shocking scenes were witnessed in Delhi when two people- a teenager and a man- were injured after getting attacked by a group of people in the Wazirabad area on Thursday night, police said on Friday. CCTV footage of the attack - shared by news agency ANI - showed the group of around 10 people attacking Jatin, aged 17, and Ajay, aged 42. Jatin and Ajay were injured in the attack, Deputy Commissioner of Police (north) Sagar Singh Kalsi said.

  • The incident occurred between Nagnath-Palasdhari section in Lonavala-Karjat Ghat on the up line. (File image)

    Patrolman spots fallen boulder on tracks, stops train on Mumbai-Pune rail route

    An alert patrolman averted an accident by stopping a locomotive along the Mumbai-Pune rail route as it was approaching a fallen boulder on the track in the early hours of Friday. Rail services on the route that had to be temporarily halted but it was restored by 8:15am on Friday morning. Patrolman Motiram Lodhi who was on duty at that time, immediately stopped the approaching locomotive and informed his seniors about the incident.

  • Picture for representation

    Ballari woman sends 900 Rakhis to Indian army on Raksha Bandhan : report

    A 23-year-old woman from Karnataka's Ballari named Vidyasri B has sent 900 rakhis to army personnel stationed at external borders on Raksha Bandhan, The Times of India reported. Vidya reportedly sent these rakhis through an army organisation in Bengaluru, Yodha Namana. Out of 900 rakhis, 300 were sent to soldiers at the Wagah border, 300 to soldiers at the Assam border and 300 to the Border Security Force personnel in Haryana, said the report.

  • Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde. (HT PHOTO)

    Shiv Sena slams Shinde govt, says ‘scamsters having a free run’

    The Shiv Sena on Friday slammed Maharashtra's Eknath Shinde-led government for exonerating Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya in a case related to alleged misappropriation of funds raised to save decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikrant from getting scrapped. An editorial in Sena's mouthpiece Saamana said that after Shinde, who became the chief minister with BJP's help after rebelling against Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, came to power all “scamsters are having a free run”.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, August 12, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now