26 December 2008
How much? Kitne ka? WHAT! Are there diamonds in there?
This cacophony of shrill and crass voices brought my attention to the source of the sound. I turned around to see two youngish women, identically dressed in jeans so tight I wondered how in the world they'd got 'em on, streaked hair, make-up & what have you. (Ah! No, I have nothing against the D&G bags...and the rest of it either)They stood there, pouting. I turned back to look at the artisan who looked at them with the kinda benign patience only a poor man can have.(Oh, by the way, I was in a tribal art & craft fest)If you were to look at this potter's wares, created outta mud, wrought in fire and sweat, you'd feel the same way I did: horrified at the words of the women. What he'd created in a remote village of Maharashtra was mind-boggling. Creativity, beauty, art at its ethnic best! What these women found "expensive" was a foot scrub, a curved fish shaped as if it were in the last throes of death. Rs 50. That's all. The younger of the two then looked at other stuff, found it ridiculous and moved on to the next stall. The potter and I exchanged looks. It was an odd moment. I plopped down next to him. He sighed and said nothing. I let him be silent. After a bit, I asked him about his work. This chap comes all the way from a tiny hamlet in a Godforsakenplace, travels for 2 days in a general compartment of a messy train, all the while wondering if his goods will reach Delhi intact or not, pays a huge amount of money to be in a place like Dilli Haat and is not even entitled to earn a few pennies as profit? His hands are magical...they create such beautiful shapes outta the shapeless mass! He even has fridge magnets moulded into exaggerated heads of animals, people...even tiny V-shaped chappals! All these are glazed and in different colours typical of India. He's also got miniscule cups and saucers, threaded to be hung on a kitchen door...I mean his goods are so NOT run-of-the-mill. But then, how can a woman who lacks imagination, wears what the others wear, carries bags that are supposedly carried by the elite(shucks! people are so dying to be 'like' somebody!)and probably buys stuff only from the malls, ever know what it is like to appreciate the smaller things of life? She is running after the west so blindly that she has no time to "stand and stare" (Wordsworth said that?) at the beauty that is there in the 'unbranded' things of life.
Hmm...I looked at this potter's dark face, white teeth, silver hair, knotted fingers, bare feet,, bent back...and his life kinda flashed before my eyes. I felt deeply touched.
As the old man sipped tea, a gaggle of giggly teenagers passed us, tarried for a bit, and moved on, exclaiming...eee...didya see that or what!
It was time to move on. My bags and I found our way back to a small bench, where I sat down and wondered...I don't know what this woman must have bought( I have serious doubts if she managed to buy anything at all...she wouldn't have liked to buy a banana-skin bag, a coconuthusk tray or mugs made out of lavastone) but I do know this: with all the education and the frills, if one cannot appreciate the unpretentious things of life, it can't be called life...it's merely a semblance of it...and one, then, is not living, one is hurrying on to finish up life.