KOLKATA: In the rhythmical cries of street sellers outside your home every morning, one may have been that of Ram Kumar. Ram Kaka as his clan call him, had not expected to cycle around Kolkata, trying to sell coconut water for a living. At the age of 65, he collects the daab from the haat when most of Kolkata is sleeping, and sells them during the day. If. Kaka is lucky, he gets a meagre twenty bucks. In his family of six, Ram is the sole earner. “I need 100 bucks a day just for my family to survive” nodded Kaka somberly.
For someone who looked like there was nothing more to his story, I was surprised to find that Ram Kumar is a silver jewellery artisan. On further inquiry, I learnt about his life, over sips of daab. At the age of 10, he mastered the craft as part of an organic process- a legacy which had served his family well for many generations. The passion with which he spoke of his trade, hit me hard. There was no drama in his narrative. Artistry was in his blood. Just plain and true. As he effortlessly described the inherent processes of the craft, I could visualize many deft hands molding, casting, and polishing.
Ram Kumar explained how it all starts with a concept of the design. Thereafter the silver is annealed or melted, and sheets of the metal are drawn upon, cut, and chiseled to perfection, as per the design. Finally, the entire mount is cleaned and polished meticulously, to the highest degree of smoothness.
With a long sigh, Ram Kumar ended his story with the hope of new beginnings. Pehr, the sterling silver jewellery brand which creates contemporary designs, had now employed him for his skills. “We have always made traditional designs”, he explained, “but now we are going to use our skills to create modern jewellery with Pehr.”
This is the story of many more like Ram Kumar, who have propagated an ancient local art for centuries. Now their confidence is shattered, as they reflect on whether the art will survive. Their stories are beginning to change with initiatives like Pehr: just like Ram Kaka, who now sees light at the end of the tunnel.
Written by Nupur Agarwal Chamaria, a passionate writer and a creative thinker. Nupur's 'kagaz aur kalam' with a cup of hot 'chai', brews the magic she creates with her beautiful writing. Stay tuned for more of her pieces, and if you too can't wait to see what else she has in store or want to just say a hello, reach out to her on firstname.lastname@example.org.