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A place where Handicrafts come alive

Stooping down,northern Ireland shooter Hugh Stewart keenly watches Mohammad Yusuf chip away at a silver plate on the lawns of the Games Village.

Master craftsmen meet the legends of sports at the Commonwealth Games Village

Stooping down,northern Ireland shooter Hugh Stewart keenly watches Mohammad Yusuf chip away at a silver plate on the lawns of the Games Village. For several decades now,Yusuf has been indulging in Chittai work — a handicrafts legacy left behind by Delhi’s Mughal rulers centuries ago.

As for Stewart,he has two children,ageing parents and over a dozen nieces and nephews back home in Ireland,and he plans to take lots of gifts for them. “It is so intricate and minute. Before I leave,I will definitely pick up at least one of the silver glasses,” Stewart says.

The lawns at the Games Village turn into makeshift artisan colonies at 4.00 pm each day,with several of them turning up to showcase how these works of art are made. All the artisans happen to be national award winners, flex boards behind them giving information on their backgrounds and the significance of their products.

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A few metres away from the Chittai worker sits Mohammed Matlub,seen making little holes on kadam wood with a tiny hammer. His forefathers,who used to stay at Ngaina district in Uttar Pradesh,were experts at fine trellis work. “My products are available for anything between Rs 50 and Rs 15,000,” says Matlub.

In his possession is a stack of photographs clicked with various foreign athletes — their names jotted down in his diary. “Just something to remember the Village by,” he adds. While Matlub is the outgoing sort,almost calling out to athletes passing by,there are others who prefer to go about their work without uttering a single word. A case in point is Wongshungmi Shangrei,who sits at a distance,moulding a special mixture of serpentinite stone and clay with the slightest of touches. Shangrei belongs to the Tau Khul Naga tribe of Manipur,which excels in the art of stone pottery.

However,art and excessive security seldom go hand in hand,as Manendra Deka,a bamboo artisan from Assam realised when the Delhi Police confiscated his tools — a knife for whitting and several cutters. When Newsline found him,he was sullenly braiding three strips of bamboo.

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“I won’t be able to show how bamboo bags and carvings are made,but I can talk about it,” he says. A national award winner in the field of handicrafts,Deka is no stranger to Delhi. He has been associated with the Handicraft and Handloom Exports Corporation of India (HHEC),a Govt of India Ministry of Textile undertaking.

However,his problems are not restricted only to lack of equipment. Despite the fact that Tuesday was the last day for showcasing his art,Deka was yet to receive the raw materials he sorely required for exercising his craft.

Every artist on the Games Village lawn is allowed to sit only for two days,after which others replace them. Next to Deka sits Sneh Gangal,a resident of Delhi who makes miniature paintings of Rajasthan. “The reception has been good so far. If viewers like our work,they go and buy them from an outlet across the street,” she says. Gangal,who hails from a family of traders,has been painting for the last 15 years. Even though the handicrafts shop in the international zone of the Games Village remains open till 9.00 pm,the artisans have to wrap up for the day and leave by seven each evening.

First published on: 07-10-2010 at 02:28:16 am
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