Limited orders and poor returns stare manja makers, who used to have a lot of work for four months
The four months beginning September and ending December meant good tidings for the family of Jaweed, a manja maker from the old city. This period guaranteed them good returns for the laborious and painstaking work they put in to make the specialised twine (manja) used to fly kites during Sankranti, for generations.
However, things are not the same for them now. Thanks to the preference of people for Chinese-made varieties of manja as opposed to traditional varieties of the stuff, most families in the vocation face a bleak future.
It was a ritualistic chore for the male members of the family to prepare a mixture of gum, glass and rice in the mornings.
The pulp was rubbed against regular thread to give a fine and ‘cutting edge’ character. But the men don’t it anymore.
“As there are no orders we now practice it as a weekly vocation and work at different places to earn some money,” says Mohammed Jaweed Khan, a third generation manja maker.
There are about 100 families in Dabeerpura and Dhoolpet involved in manja making for the past many decades. And most of them spend between six and eight months preparing the sharp thread. Nevertheless, the spots where they performed the job remain deserted in this part of the year.
“We not only face problems of limited orders but also of poor returns as shopkeepers are not ready to increase our charges. We are paid between Rs. 10 and Rs. 20 for converting a plain thread bundle of 2,000 metres into manja. How can this paltry sum be sufficient in these times,” asks Jahangir Ali, who now drives an autorickshaw to support his family.
Most of the men from these families have switched to other trades and take up the job of preparing the manja only on Sundays and holidays. “If I employ labour I have to pay them wages for a full day which is not possible, so I gather my family members on Sundays and we share the money we get through it,” adds Jaweed Bhai. Uncertain future in such vocations comes as a warning to parents and most of them now want their children to study and take up decent jobs.