The rhythm of life
Photos: C. V. Subrahmanyam
Mahaswetha Devi displaying a colourful duppatta.
A melodious tune on the flute welcomes the visitors to the exhibition being organised by the Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Industrial Co-operative Marketing Federation Ltd., Chennai, christened `Sipri' at the Maharastra Mandal hall at Asilametta. A cursory glance to the right, immediately on entering the premises, reveals that an elderly man, sporting dark glasses, playing on the flute. Flutes in different shapes and sizes are spread all around him. A woman dressed in traditional saree is seated next to him.
The affable man, K. Chinna Veeran, 64, hailing from Gandhigram in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu, has been involved in the manufacture of flutes and in teaching children to play on it for the past 47 years. He became blind at the age of two-and-a-half years, when some native medicines put in his eyes resulted in an adverse reaction.
With his perseverance and hard work, he proved that being visually challenged need not be a stumbling block in achieving one's goals in life. He finished schooling and finally completed his B.Sc. (agriculture). He set up poultry business but had to wind it up after some time due to lack of finance.
Later, he opened a sweet stall-cum-bakery but that also did not turn out to be profitable for him. He switched over to selling bangles, garments and finally balloons. Some of the children who came to buy balloons from him used to ask him for flutes and it struck the right chord in him.
From his childhood, Chinna Veeran had a liking for flute. "I used to be mesmerised by its melody whenever I used to hear it," he recalled. He decided that it was the right time for him to pursue his childhood passion. He procured some flutes from the renowned flute manufacturer, K.K. Swamy, and started selling them.
Later, he felt an urge to learn the art of making flutes. However, Swamy was not prepared to teach the art to a visually challenged man as making flutes involves risk in cutting holes with a red-hot iron tool. Chinna Veeran befriended the workers, who were employed by Swamy, and learnt some of the techniques from them.
Pleased with his grit, Swamy gave him the tools required for the manufacture of flutes so that he could make them on his own. That was 47 years ago and he continues it to this day placing the cut wood in between his feet and making holes in it.
Initially, Chinna Veeran learnt playing on the flute on his own. Later, he took lessons from the eminent flautist, Mahalingam, in Bangalore. Chinna Veeran also passed the lower and higher diploma examinations in sitar and flute.
Apart from making and selling flutes at exhibitions, he teaches the art to those who have an ear for music. "Any raga can be played on a flute. However, there are slight variations in the shape and size of the holes on the flutes for playing Hindustani, Carnatic and Western music.
Is he happy with the returns?
K.Chinna Veeran, a blind artisan from Madurai, playing on the flute.
"I have no reason to worry. I was married in 1979 and have three sons and two daughters. All of them look after me well," he says and hastens to add, "Of course, my wife Mariamma, is my constant companion and guide." He plans to teach more children in playing and making flutes.
Chinna Veeran's tunes can be heard at the Maharastra Mandal.
The next stall belongs to T. Surendra from Hyderabad who has lost three fingers in pursuing his passion for making hard board spray paintings which serve as educational aids like alphabet,
cursive letters, birds, flowers, numbers, wild and domestic animals and cartoon characters for kindergarten children, besides functioning like message boards and key holders.
Having done courses in fine arts and architecture from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad, in 1965, Surendra joined as a cinema operator. He subsequently got a job at the Gandhi Hospital. Later, he migrated to Bahrain and joined the Bahrain Cinema Company as a manager in the video films marketing division. After serving there for some years, he returned to India.
One day he saw a little boy crying as the cartoon character he was watching on TV stopped. He wanted to see the cartoon for some more time but the programme had ended and there was nothing his parents could do. Surendra realised that children need colourful toys to play and he decided to make them.
He uses scrap boards and little blocks of waste wood, paints them with a sprayer and tops it up with touchwood to make it scratchproof. He does all the work himself right from cutting the hard boards with a jigsaw machine, spray painting and applying touchwood. The accidental severing of three fingers while cutting the boards did not deter him from pursuing his passion.
"The paints are totally safe for children and parents need not worry even if they put it in their mouths," he says. While some of the works have a wooden base to make them stand, others have a groove for hanging on the wall. The products range from Rs.5 to Rs.300.
Children learn things fast when they are taught with the help of educational tools. The managements of schools can benefit by paying a visit to this stall.
On the lookout for furniture to adorn your home? Watch out for them at the stall put up by Md. Yaseen from Kashmir. The beautifully carved products made of walnut and solid wood are marvellous. Writing tables, desks, chest top drawers, book shelves and jewellery boxes are some of the items on display. The prices range from Rs.500 to Rs.2,500.
Floating candles in various colours, shapes and sizes are on display. There are some Valentine special candles also. "We sell our products to Archies in Kolkata," says Mahaswetha Mitra, who deals with the candles.
"Our main business is pure silk scarves. These wrinkle-free scarves are in high demand in Switzerland and we mostly export our stocks. I have my own loom," she says.
Colourful Kashmiri shawls with fine needlework and embroidery can be seen at the exhibition. "The artisan has to work wearing magnifying glasses when doing the needlework on the Pashmina shawls," says Hafiz from Kashmir.
A multifarious variety of dress material, jackets and bed sheets are on display at the stall.
An original HMV gramophone is also on display. The antique piece in working condition is on sale, and can be a fine collector's item.
The exhibition, which opened on Thursday, will conclude on February 9.
B. MADHU GOPAL
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