From Channapatna to Obama

The U.S. President will be presented with a set of 15 decorative items and toys

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:19 pm IST

Published - January 23, 2015 12:20 pm IST - BENGALURU:

A set of 15 decorative items and toys of the famed Channapatna lacquerware, made by 36-year-old Rahim Khan and his team of 11 co-workers, are all packed and ready to be handed over to U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to India on the Republic Day.

This event is unlikely to change his hard life in the “toy town” Channapatna, about 60 km from Bengaluru. Nevertheless, Mr. Khan is excited. “The last time his wife was here (referring to Michelle Obama’s visit in 2010), she bought toys from the shed we had put up in Delhi. She must have told her husband she wants more and our (Karnataka) government will surprise him with a gift!” he said, sporting a broad smile.

Mr. Khan is among the 900 traditional lacquerware artisans in Channapatna town registered with the Karnataka State Handloom Development Corporation (KSHDC). The government-run crafts body offers technical facilities, besides design and marketing inputs. The introduction of organic colours for the toys was also a KSHDC initiative, which helped the art that was in doldrums with a facelift, says G. Muniswamy, General Manager (Marketing), KSHDC.

Mr. Khan is grateful for the KSHDC’s hand-holding, but it has not meant the end of problems for artisans like him. “The cost of a tonne of wood has gone up by four times in the last 10 years and its availability is also not guaranteed,” he rued.

Besides, younger people are not particularly interested in the art. “I have a daughter and a son and both do not seem particularly interested in the art,” said Mr. Khan. “I started learning toy-making when I was 10. But these days nobody lets a child into the workplace. They also fear being penalised for employing a child labourer.”

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