Shera alone emerges clean from CWG sleaze

Shera alone emerges clean from CWG sleaze

Grewal with Shera.

The prestigious Commonwealth Games has been embroiled in controversies with fresh allegations leveled against the organising Committee everyday. Some heads have rolled in the wake of damning allegations against hiring the services at exorbitant costs or
using the services of little known firms.

Organising Committee Chairman and MP Suresh Kalmadi is taking much flak and has been forced to share his turf with a dozen bureaucrats.

But this one deal that the organising committee made that it cannot be faulted for. The bid for manufacturing mementoes of the Games mascot for distribution among the participants was abysmally low, almost a third of the next lowest.

But then, for 63-year old Abninder Singh Grewal, a sense of national pride in being a part of Commonwealth Games was far more important than making money.

So, the artist, who is engaged in making designer artifacts at Mohali adjoining Chandigarh, quoted a ridiculously low price for making miniature models of Shera, the mascot of the Commonwealth Games 2010 beginning in Delhi in October.

After getting the contract for making Shera models a few days ago, Gary Arts, a unit owned by Grewal, is now frenetically engaged in making nine-inch miniature models to meet the deadline of August 31.

“We have been given about 15 days to make 1500 pieces of the model to be cast in poly stone (marble powder),” he says adding it is a challenging task. Grewal tries to meet the target of 100 finished models in a day.

At least 25 artisans are working long hours at Grewal’s workshop doing myriad jobs to make the models - from die-casting to affixing tails and moustaches to painting a completed model and then drying it.

However, Grewal is relishing the challenge. He says, “I quoted a low price
because I just wanted to get the order. The consideration of profit and loss was secondary. I am proud that I have got the chance to contribute in a small way to this grand event being hosted by India.”

When Grewal quoted a price of Rs 650 per piece for the model which would be presented as a memento to the VIPs and top officials from various countries visiting the Commonwealth Games, the officials from the purchasing committing of the CWG were aghast. The next minimum price quoted by another firm was Rs 1,850.

“They were incredulous and sought assurance whether I would be able to
deliver at such a low price. I simply asked them to believe in me,” says Grewal who got the order through his liaison with Phulkari, the Punjab government’s handicrafts and handlooms emporium which stocks Grewal’s creations.

There were glitches at the conception stage. There was confusion whether the victory sign made by Shera would be right or left-handed. It was finally resolved that Shera would make victory sign with his right hand.

Another issue was a trailing tail as shown in a picture of the mascot provided to him. Grewal insisted it should be a raised tail. “The proud Shera should not look meek and beaten down,” he reasoned.

Then there were issues with the smile of the mascot. Grewal wanted it to depict a more “honest” and “sincere” smile not a “crooked” one.

However, Grewal is intrigued by the small number of Shera models ordered to be made when thousands of athletes, officials and tourists would be coming to Delhi and would like to be presented with or purchase a Shera model. “Perhaps the
organisers realise there is no time left to place a huge order at such short notice,” he reasons.

For an artist, it has been a long and tortuous journey for Grewal who fought childhood debility that kept him bed-ridden for three years. “At that time I was 14. That is when I started painting and developed a key eye for art. There was nothing else I could do,” says Grewal who was once sarpanch of his native village, Nakoke in Patiala district.

He started making sculptures of women, Sikh personalities and motifs depicting Punjabi culture. However, fame came to him very late in life when he had almost decided to wind up his art workshop.

His creations are mostly in black stone (granite) or white marble. Now, he is engaged in making statues of decorated soldiers to be installed at war memorials. His sculptures of freedom fighters and deceased Punjab politicians are installed at traffic junctions in various cities of Punjab. But it is with Shera that Grewal has found a new identity.

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