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NRI passion for Indian artefacts soars

Artefacts such as masks, Ganesha idols and Buddha heads are in great demand abroad, reports Lalatendu Mishra.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2007 03:47 IST
Lalatendu Mishra
Lalatendu Mishra

Savita Gaonkar had extra baggage as she boarded a flight back home to Texas from her country of origin last week. But this was not about foodie knick-knacks such as mom's pickles.

The baggage was packed with artefacts from India meant to decorate her spacious house or as gifts for friends.

The software consultant is one of thousands of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and people of Indian origin, in addition to foreign tourists, for whom stuffing their bags with Indian artefacts after a New Year vacation has become a done thing.

"Whenever friends come to my house, they ask me to get Indian art and artefacts. On my way back, I am taking lots of artefacts like jharokhas (windows) and other products made of fibre resin, which I will gift," Gaonkar told the Hindustan Times. "All these look like original works of art, are lightweight and pretty popular. These are not available in the US," she added.

Though Indian artefacts made out of wood, stone and metal have always drawn art lovers, artefacts made out of fibre resin are the latest craze due to their light weight and cost effectiveness — nearly 50 per cent less than their wooden versions.

Products in demand include miniatures of Rajasthani figurines, the ever-popular Ganesha, images of other Hindu gods, Buddha heads, carved jharokhas, horse heads, tea coasters made of acrylic sheets, masks and sculptures, say dealers.

While NRIs with a base in Mumbai visit well-known art shops to take their picks, those coming from other destinations to catch a flight from Mumbai, arrive in advance for art shopping, some even book orders earlier through the Internet.

"Original art is very costly and few can afford them. By making moulded handicrafts out of fibre resin, we are saving trees as a huge amount of wood is required to make artefacts. Art lovers from both India and abroad prefer these as they look the same but come with less weight," said Jyoti Bararia, proprietor of Art Bazar, a wholesale dealer of artefacts.

"NRIs and foreigners come to us because they want to deal with reputed names. We see 30 per cent annual sales growth due to their patronage," said Prakash Babani of Satguru's Art and Craft, a leading art dealer of Mumbai. "Earlier NRIs used to come once in four years and now they are coming often as their incomes have gone up," said Babani. Transactions made through credit cards have made art buying smoother, thus giving a boost to the business.

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