Crafting a life a long way from home

Adept: The bamboo used by these craftsmen to make furniture is brought from Rajasthan. Photo: Karan Ananth   | Photo Credit: Karan Ananth

For a while now, Thippasandra and Jeevan Bima Nagar have been playing host to a group of men, visiting all the way from Rajasthan.

“This is my address — Jeevan Bima Nagar water tank, adjacent to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike ward office,” says Kaptan Singh, a travelling craftsman in his mid-40s, who has set up his business and temporary home on the footpath.

His is a story of a migrant worker, making do with what he can find. Surrounded by a pile of bamboo sticks, jute and rope, his team of four makes an array of stools and chairs, sold to “any passer-by who is interested”.

“We manufacture, sell, eat and sleep on the footpath,” Kaptan says.

The men found their way to Bangalore after going to Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. There is no State he hasn’t been to, Kaptan claims, adding that he stays at least two months in each State.

Brought from home

The bamboo the craftsmen use is brought from Rajasthan. The variety they use doesn’t grow on the slopes here, Kaptan claims.

“Back in our farms, we grow wheat, jowar and bajra, and on the sidelines, we cultivate bamboo. It thrives during the monsoon. It is chopped, treated and products such as chairs known as ‘mooda’ are made,” he explains.

About 300 households in his village near Agra district are involved in making the bamboo handicrafts, he says. Girls make the rope or the wicker, women prepare the fibre and the men market them. It is a skill learnt from their elders, mostly through observation.

“Initially, we used to bring the finished pieces of furniture, but that cost a lot. So, we learnt how to make these crafts ourselves.”

Business decision

Kaptan’s decision to leave his wife and daughters behind to set up shop here was a business one. His skill is rare here and, he says: “All that we are satisfied about is that our labour costs are covered. Otherwise, these are eaten up by middlemen in villages.”

He chooses the footpath and not consumer fairs or exhibitions to showcase his craft as they “cannot afford to pay the rent”.

Travel expenses are cut down by requesting lorry drivers, who transport marble and tiles, to accommodate their lightweight stock.

Dealing with the police who, not surprisingly, question him about occupying the footpath is a challenge, he admits.

How did the men find their way to Thippasandra? Kaptan says they set up wherever they find space, and the wide footpath there was acceptable. They have been in Bangalore for a year, he adds.

Fortunate shelter

“Rain is a major problem. Our work gets stalled, so we requested the councillor to let us store our stock in his office compound. We told him we’re poor and our stock was getting damaged,” he says, pointing to the building behind him.

However, when asked about these settlers, K. Chandrashekhar, Jeevan Bima Nagar councillor, said: “This is a temporary ward office and I have requested for another one from our MLA. I didn’t allow anyone to store anything here.”

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2021 8:54:34 AM |

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