Smell of clay keeps them going

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Nimble fingers: Accha Rao, a traditional potter, making earthen deepams for Deepavali in Visakhapatnam. —
Nimble fingers: Accha Rao, a traditional potter, making earthen deepams for Deepavali in Visakhapatnam. —

Nivedita Ganguly

Demand for terracotta deepams has pushed them to the edge

VISAKHAPATNAM: Even as the markets glow with glitter and glamour amidst the festive buoyancy, a few feeble hands work in silent darkness to create wonders out of clay from the potter’s wheel.

The faceless congested lanes of Kummari Veedhi stand as a testimony to a rich past of one of the most ancient professions of artistic expressions. For 66-year-old Accha Rao, the going had never been so tough a few years ago. Once the place used to bustle with activity, especially during Deepavali, to meet the heavy demand for the terracotta deepams.

However, with big malls and gift shops entering the market and migrant families from Rajasthan and other regions settling in the city with their decorative terracotta items, the traditional potters of Kummari Veedhi are slowly being pushed into a marginal existence. Few years back, there were more than 40 families who used to make earthen pots and artefacts and make a decent living.

But today, there are just a handful of potters in the place who still assiduously continue to recreate the magic from the potter’s wheel, despite the meagre returns.

The middlemen and art galleries, designer lifestyle stores and exclusive outlets have taken over from the traditional craftsman.

“The demand has come down considerably in recent years. We have to sell bulks of deepams and pots at wholesale rates to the dealers who sell it at a much higher rate with slight modifications. On top of that, the rising prices of basic necessities have made a deep hole in our food basket,” rues Accha Rao, a traditional potter, who has been in the profession from his childhood. With rising cost of living and the low fetching profession of potters, the younger generation is taking to other means of livelihood and refrains from coming into their family business. “My son asks me to change my profession. But at this age, how can I stop churning the wheel that has been lifeline since decades and start all over again? I have to continue with this till my last breath,” he adds. Even as the tired, distressed faces continue to work on the wheel, it’s their passion for work that helps them sail through the twilight years of life.



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