Diminishing Returns III

Diminishing Returns III – ‘Creaking Wheel'

diyas (lamps), toys, decorative items, idols of gods etc, I was taught to make everything. Our family had been creating them for several generations. The potter’s wheel is our God — our source of livelihood. But in the past 10 to 15 years, things have drastically changed. I am regretting my decision to carry on with the family business. Cheap, imported goods from China have flooded the markets – decorative items, toys, diyas, religious idols everything that I used to create with great labour and patience – China makes it all, and in hordes. Works of indigenous artisans like me are neither appreciated nor encouraged. The cost of molding clay has been skyrocketing. Last year it used to cost Rs 1,500 per trolley but this year it has risen to Rs 2,500 apiece. There was a time when we looked forward to the festive season, and laboured to create an inventory. But in the past few years, we have hardly been able to sell our products, often returning home almost empty handed. Navratri has already begun. It will be followed by Dussehra and Diwali, but I am still over-stocked and have no hope of any kind of bumper sale. I have four children – two boys and two girls. I am happy that all of them are going to school. But I am afraid, how long I will be able to sustain this. I often run out of money for paying their school fees. After several reminders (and even threats of throwing them out of the school), I manage to deposit their fee on a quarterly basis and that too with a fine. To make ends meet, I along with other community members, work as daily wagers during the lean periods of the year. Despite my dire financial situation, I am proud of my art. My children too love to help me out and hone their own skills. Along with their mother, the children pat the clay, clean the wheel, and mould pots, etc. It is a matter of pride for them. They want to carry forward the family’s tradition and pass on the skill to their children eventually. But I am happy they are going to school, a strong educational background will give them an edge.

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