...After the heat and dust is over

Homeward Bound

Artisan Subir Pal packs his bags as he is done with the making of idols while his wife helps at their workshop in Chittaranjan Park’s (now closed) Chandralok Cinema. But an untold story of an artisan doesn’t end with his departure or pre-puja fame.

With the emptying of the workshop after the pujas are over, an artisan leaves behind a vacuum in the hearts and lives of people close to them. The tea vendor at a nearby stall now earns less as the friends he made are gone. The north wind now blows more dust as the tents erected on the ground are no more.

The shawl-wrapped wife of the Bihari gatekeeper, while sweeping the workshop, looks at the oily burnt patch on the wall where once a makeshift oven, made with some bricks and dry logs, stood. The time she spent with Subir’s wife is gone. She asks her husband, “Have they reached safely?” He nods his head while listening to Yaad piya ki aayi from Prahaar on a popular radio channel.

True, clay collected from the Yamuna to make the idols of Ganesha, Durga, her family, and the recent one of Kali are returned to the river with the end of the pujas, but the sentiments attached to making these idols do not get immersed along.

Artisans from across West Bengal come to the city to earn more as they are paid better here.

“A mere Rs 2,000 for an idol doesn’t help us run our family. We need to look after the needs of our children. So we move to Delhi to work for a few months,” says 43-year-old Naaru Gopal Pal. Naaru was brought here by his elder brother Probir.

Subir or Probir is another common man in the deluge of people who go pandal-hopping during Durga Puja. While you go to see the beautiful idols, they stand beside you to check their faults in your criticism. They do not repeat those mistakes but better the idols next time.

“A lot depends on what people say. We try and rectify our mistakes,” says Probir Pal, 45.They return home soon after Kali Puja as they need to assist their brothers in preparing the idols of Jagatdhatri and Kartik. These two pujas are not celebrated here.

However, Manik Pal, who is working for over 18 years away from his village, says, “We have an order for a Jagatdhatri model for CR Park’s C block this time. Some people are doing it for the first time here this year.”

Probir’s cousins also come to the city during the pujas to play dhaaks (drums). Payment for playing dhaaks doesn’t fulfil their needs. Poverty makes them visit almost every house in CR Park to collect old winter clothes and money before they return home.

Love village life? Visit these artisans’ ghettos and spend some time amid the clay and hay over a cup of tea. The woody smell of burning cow dung cakes and the smoke from the earthen ovens at dusk would sweep you off your feet.

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