Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
CRAFT: March 21, 1999
What a delicate pot... and look at the tiny basket... so colourful! Who gave this Ganesha... the elephant... the horse... the string of parrots... and those lovely lamps, brass and terracotta...?"
Twenty years ago when we built "Rasa" in Injambakkam near Chennai, we thought only the beautiful sea would keep us company. Soon friends filled Rasa with little things that suddenly made home an answer to the sea. Shells and sand jostled with Thanjavur dolls, Chennapatna toys and Kondapalli horses. Terracotta from Chengalpattu, from Ramnagar, from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh lined up to say they too came with love and best wishes.
Time flies. The close friends came again. Looked at a parrot or a pot or a small Ganesha. "So beautiful," they said. We insisted they take it. Recently our daughter-in-law, Hema, visited from Australia. "Daddy, I am taking all this to Sydney," she said. To a home far away, but our home.
Looking back at the six-odd decades spent in this dream-filled world, we say to ourselves, "Yes, its time to spread the dreams."
It is time to call on the gods. We stand before Brahma the Creator. He asks, "Why are you here?" We don't know, but Chitragupta says we have an almost clean record and perhaps you will find us a place back from where we came from."
Brahma goes through the record book. "Well, you were a photographer and your wife took care of the children. I suggest you go back to your arena...." By the way, what is this talk in the world whether I, Brahma the Creator, should be called a craftsman or an artist? Strange people I have created...."
"What about me?" I plead. "I am a photographer. So many years in the newspaper world and they do not know whether to describe photography as an art or a craft...."
Brahma stares and says, "Better refer this to your wage board."
A dream, I wake up. In the garden are the parrots, twittering away. I rejoice in their chatter. How did this green bird turn into red, blue, orange in the hands and eyes of women in Gujarat? Imagination? A world filled with colour seen and felt by the heart?
A woman collects torn clothes... stuffs them with cotton and gives it the shape of a parrot. Collects seeds from fields and trees and does the eyes and the beak and decorates the parrot. And the same beads help her make a lovely string of parrots.
She does it with warmth and love. Why? The day her grandchild is born, she rushes to the cradle and ties the string of parrots to it. She tells the little one, "They are going to tell you lovely stories. Listen and you will be soaked in wisdom. Listen...." A tradition that is carried on even today... a woman making parrots for her grandchild.
Long years ago, my mother used to play Chowka Bhara with seashells... and Pagade, the play area resembling a plus mark handstitched with colourful cloth. She always had a smile as she moved the pawns. And as she played, she also hummed a Purandaradasa kriti. I also remember the sugar dolls she made during Sankranti... hours of labour but always with a smile.
Is it that memory that makes us reach out to all that is beautiful?
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