Earthen pots, once a popular water storage cooler, are slowly getting erased from our memory.
For Umar Aslam, an earthen pot maker, life has taken a cruel turn. A profession which was practiced by his ancestors is slowly but steadily losing steam. The potter has been witness to the change the world of pots is seeing. The sales have gone down by almost 40 per cent in the last 3-4 decades. “The number of people who purchase earthen pots has decreased. Maybe people take hygiene into account and abstain from purchasing such pots”, says Umar. In the ancient times, when then there were no refrigerators, earthen pots used to be popular water storage coolers.
The technique of evaporative cooling is the operative force in the pot that keeps the water cool. This is a natural process in which water seeps in from mini-pores in the pot and evaporates. Thus, cooling the water inside the pot. “The slow process of cooling is what makes such pots less popular these days as people prefer instant refrigeration,” adds Sunder Kumar, another potter from Chattarpur. The cost of a pot varies from Rs.50 to 250, depending upon its shape and size.
Earthen pots are a rarity in houses these days in summers with only those few with a penchant for old practices and customs, keeping it at home. Rashmi Gosain, a German linguist based in Delhi, remembers how such pots were a common thing during her childhood. “My grandmom used earthen pots to store cold water. I used to get refreshed after drinking the water,” adds Rashmi. From the health point of view too, it is a good option. Water stored in matkas or surahis is cooled to about 14 degrees Celsius, which is ideal to have. Traditionally, it is believed to be gentle on the throat and any day better than drinking chilled water from the fridge.
But in these times, when everything is needed instantly and old practices don’t seem convincing enough to the new generation, the space for such objects is shrinking. Constant dip in the sales often has potters thinking of diversifying or switching over to new professions but the lack of knowledge and education prevents them from doing so.