Kumhar Gram

Kumhar Gram of Delhi – will its art and tradition die out soon?

Kumhar Gram of Delhi is perhaps the last surviving art eco-system of the city and may die out soon.The potters of this ‘village’, who make lamps, diyas and other pottery items for the city folk are on the verge of extinction. Can we reverse this culture ‘extinction’?

Kumhar Gram
These creations from Kumhar Gram fetch very high prices in the foreign markets

Last Sunday, I took a trip to this enclave that lies within the somewhat ‘ modern’ colony of Uttam Nagar. Accompanied by some researchers from the Sharda University, I was astonished at seeing the mental inertia of the potters of the Kumhar Gram.

Kumhar Gram- where time stands still

 

Translated into English, Kumhar Gram means ‘ Village of Potters’. The word ‘village’ here stands out like a sore thumb for, this habitat is very much a part of the thriving metropolis of Delhi. But once you step inside this enclave, you can’t stop yourself thinking how much its residents have fallen behind the rest of their fellow Delhiites in terms of adoption of modern management techniques.

Pottery pieces
Drying out!

The Alwar connect

 

It was difficult tracking the Village headman, Harkishan Prajapati. He is not only the most noticeable face of this potter’s village, he is also a National Award winner. A master of this ancient craft, Prajapati is also considered as the founder of this village.

Kumhar Gram
Gods take shape

He came to Uttam Nagar in the early 1970s, and since then, this colony is now home to more than 500 families. Some of the residents of this village also belong to Haryana, which is a neighboring state of Delhi. Almost all the residents of this quaint area sport the surname, Prajapati.

The word, Prajapati, means Lord of People. This community of people believes that they are descendants of Lord Bramha, who is the Creator and the Master of this World.

Alwar is approximately 150 kilometers and is best known for its tigers.

Kumhar Gram
The girl and the clay

Ever since Prajapati made Uttam Nagar his home, he has been followed by several other potters who wanted to strike gold in the pottery making business.

Maybe you would like to read this article from Hindustan Times on this community- http://www.hindustantimes.com/art-and-culture/this-diwali-visit-kumhar-colony-and-light-up-a-potter-s-life/story-KjpBmBLy3fOYHt8MzfQ0BI.html

Initially, they did well, but with the numbers of potters in this colony swelling, competition among themselves is hurting them real bad.

Kumhar Gram
The finished product

Tough Competition

 

The potters here live cheek by jowl and this is perhaps the greatest barrier to their success. Buyers of their products who come from Dwarka and other neighborhoods from Delhi are able to drive a hard bargain with these sellers.

kUMHAR gRAM
Perfect Circles

‘There is little differentiation on offer here,’ rues Prajapati. People here are used to making the same style of diyas and other forms of pottery, he explains.

Kumhar Gram
Playing the game-A young boy takes a shot with his marbles.

Even though the potters spend a little fortune on making their superbly designed products, their average price realization is very low. Interestingly, the demand for these products shoots up during Diwali or the Festival of Lights. Domestic buyers don’t find value in what we lovingly make, laments Prajapati.

But the silver lining is that foreign buyers find these products delightful and reflective of Indian culture. The price that they get from international travelers coming to this part of Delhi is very attractive.So, the obvious strategy is that the potters of Kumhar Gram should look out for foreign buyers.

Too lazy

 

It is not that the Government of India has not encouraged the potters of this village from adopting new marketing practices. Prajapati’s wife is also a National Awardee. He has been sent abroad by the Government on several sponsored trips several times to showcase his products.

Kumhar Gram
Whiling away the time by gambling!

But Prajapati and his wife are exceptions here. Most of the people whom we spoke to were reluctant in taking part in Government sponsored workshops and training sessions.

‘There is little value in attending these sessions,’ says Ram Prakash. ‘We will have to shut down our factories for a day or two and we will lose business, ‘ he says.

Kumhar Gram
One of the ‘factories’ in Kumhar Gram

I think it is more about their mental inertia. Perhaps they think that the village headman will teach them this art and craft and make money. After all, Harkishan Prajapati is like the Moses of this community.

Modern Times at Kumhar Gram?

 

If you thought that the youth of this colony will take up this ancient art and craft of their ancestors, then perish this thought. Many of them want to join the swelling ranks of IT workers, Uber drivers and government employed peons. For them, pottery is a dying art with little revenue potential. It isn’t glamorous either for a generation that is very much into mobile phones, internet, cricket, and movies.

Kumhar Gram
Waiting for the customer!

Fortunately, several organizations are offering their helping hands to the Kumhar Gram community to make pottery more relevant and profitable in these modern times.

Monica from Sharada University wants to change the community’s attitude toward this dying art. Armed with a sheaf of papers and a pen, she goes from house to house in this village, convincing elders and youngsters to join a training program.

Kumhar Gram
That is Monica from Sharda University

‘The training program will help you find new markets and earn better profits, ‘ she explains to a bunch of curious onlookers. She repeats these lines many times as she visits houses and speaks to the ladies and men of this community. Monica is fairly successful in her efforts. More than 100 people consent to attending that training program, but she has doubts.

Kumhar Gram
Sonu and I

‘I wonder how many will actually pick up the phone when I call them up, ‘ she says. But, she is hopeful, nevertheless about the success of her mission.

Sonu, in the picture above, represents a young breed of potters who can revive this ancient art by making use of technology and new marketing platforms like Amazon and Flipkart.

His village has turned into a mini-tourist attraction for all those Delhiites who want to explore the city and move outside their air-conditioned cubicles. And therein lies another profitable opportunity.

Meanwhile, the potters of Kumhar Gram are still waiting for their Messiah to come and deliver them from their self -inflicted poverty.

Kumhar Gram reserachers
The team researchers from Sharda University

Would you be interested in contributing towards the welfare of the potters of Kumhar Gram?

Or would you like to buy some good quality pottery from this place? If yes, please write me an e-mail and I will connect you with some of the better-known potters here.

Thanks for reading this post.

 

Delhi photoblog

Delhi photoblog-the city comes to life

My mobile camera encouraged me to do a Delhi photoblog  while coming back from the Red Fort last Sunday. Since a large number of my readers live outside India ( I hate the term ‘foreigners’) , a photoblog like this one would be in order for them. Many of them see Delhi through the eyes of tourist places and hotels and they do not get to see how people in India actually live their lives.

Let me know if you like this Delhi photoblog. It would be better if you suggested improvements. Some pics are crappy, but I am not  a professional photographer, you see.

Delhi photoblog
The Lodhi  Colony Art District

The staid government colony, Lodhi colony, is undergoing an image makeover these days. Graffiti is making this habitat an interesting place for the backpackers.

Whomsoever has planned and executed this project deserves my kudos.

Speaking of doors, I found this one..isn’t it pretty?

Delhi photoblog
Can you imagine the age of this beautiful door? My guess is it is more than 220 years old.
Delhi photoblog
Is she a goddess or is she a beautiful girl?

Can you guess who she is? I think she is a working woman. Carrying her child on her back, she is seen flitting from home to school to back to home. She can be found in places as diverse as New York, Nigeria, Japan or Delhi.No?

Delhi photoblog
This lady reminds me of the American Indians

What is the grandmother saying? Can you guess? Perhaps, she is pleading to save the environment. “Save trees.”

Delhi photoblog
Delhi has never looked this beautiful

Yes, the ladies need to be fearless. Whether young or old, they should look the world into its eye.

Mornings=Tea Time

Delhi Photoblog
Chai, Chai

Delhi photoblog would be incomplete without this picture. Our mornings begin with chai. This chaiwalla uncle is preparing tea for his guests. I am calling this gentleman an uncle because he is  a little younger than my dad.

The most famous chaiwalla ( tea-seller) of India is our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He used to sell tea in the trains and railway stations in his teens.

Delhi photoblog
A chaiwalla brews up some excellent tea

This is paradise my friends, paradise. If you like this photo, the credit goes to my Gionee camera.

Bliss!

Delhi photoblog
She too is a mother. Don’t you dare touch my kids, she is saying

My kids would have hijacked some of these pups had they been around ;)))

Morning News !

Elsewhere, a gent is catching up on some morning news.

Delhi photoblog
The printed word still is still trusted by many when it comes to news.

Setting up shop

Delhi photoblog
A panoply of colors

Can you imagine India without color? I took this snap when a shopkeeper had just opened up his stall to sell bangles. Gods and bangles jostle for space in this stall.

Delhi photoblog
The spice seller at Chandni Chowk

India has always been known as the land of spices. I read in my history classes that the Romans and Egyptians used to trade their bullion for our spices which is not a bad deal after all!

Sharing is caring

Delhi photoblog
Many Indians start their morning by sharing their foods with animals

We share our spaces, roads, homes and even food with animals and I hope you like this photo from the Delhi photoblog.

Color my skies

Elsewhere, our skies were getting ready to welcome their guests- the kites.

Delhi photoblog
This was the first time Delhi played host to an international kite flying festival

People in Delhi fly kites on January 26th and August 15 but this was the first time that kite flying  was promoted on an international scale in the city. Good effort but a lot of distance to cover.

If you were around, you could have bought a few puppets as well  in the festival.

Delhi photoblog
Puppets have their own tales to tell

Kathputlis or puppets are dying in Delhi. When I was young, I could see many puppeteers around and telling stories about folk heroes through the kathputlis. Video  and mobile games have replaced this popular form of entertainment and alas, our kids don’t know much about this craft. Puppeteers use their hands and voice skilfully to recount ancient tales of folk heroes and heroines.

Delhi photoblog
This joker was balancing dominoes as part of his entertainment duties

A jeep hauls up a heavy kite!

Delhi photoblog

I have flown kites when I was in teens  but never knew that some of them need to be hauled up by jeeps!

Have you ever flown kites?