My wife had suddenly become “health” conscious, and she was asking me to buy some earthernware for cooking! The realization that earthern vessels were good for health has come upon her recently, and she was asking me to get some earthern vessels, including an earthen Kadai.

Earthern Kadai? I was very curious. I located the one and only roadside shop at Mogappair (a suburb of Chennai) and went about fulfilling the earthy wishes of my wife.

Mudpot: Rs.160. Mud vessels to store cooked rice and other items: Rs.40 to 60 a piece. Mud pot lid : Rs.20. The one that interested me much was the earthern Kadai. It was costing Rs.65.  The lid again was Rs.20.

I started talking with the man selling these pots. I asked whether he made these pots himself. His wife, who was manning a small fruit shop nearby, came rushing in and said that he doesn’t know this art and that he gets it in bulk from his village and sells it here.

I was surprised. I asked how come he did not learn this wonderful art of pottery. With a downcast look, the man said that he never was interested in pottery when he was young, as his father and mother were making the pots till a few years back before they passed away, and now, that he is old, he is simply doing this as a means for survival. I asked him whether their children were interested. One of his sons was an auto driver, and the other wants to enter films.

No land? I asked, and was told that once, they used to do farming! Why have you left farming? I asked, and they said that they came to the city for better earning. They thought that city life had a few charms like cinema and beach, that the village life did not have.

The man said, “Sir, you please come back and buy atleast one vessel from me every now and then. We can’t compete with metal vessels ever, you know”

I silently agreed, and left the shop, wondering how much ordinary life in our country has changed over the years.

Computers and Cellphones have changed the way we live life. Many vocations are going out of business. Who wants to become a farmer these days? Who wants to become a tailor? Who wants to become a potter? Over the years, all of us would have noticed the reduction in the number of saloons, tailoring shops, pottery shops and “ordinary” bunk shops and grocery stores – In tune with the times, what we are getting to see more are malls and supermarkets which operate with MNC power. These small entrepreneurs are struggling for help, and what we can do to help them, is to encourage them whenever possible – that is the greatest help that we can do.

Farmers committing suicide is just one symptom of the killing of the small entrepreneur, the small farmer, the small trader, and the small potter, who are unable to withstand the harsh glare of technology and ruthless business demands in the changed scenario, where only computers, laptops and cell phones rule..


12 responses »

  1. Thank you, Shail. Even today there are cartsellers of toys. Only they are selling radioactive powder smeared toys that glow in the night, and how many people, ignorant of this, buy them!

  2. srilatha chennubhotla says:

    yes guys i too agree.
    akir kar jai jawan jai kisan.It is ultimately food that we all need.So the farming prosfession has to be given more value.As we say paapi peit …..someday again in our country we all will shift back to agriculture.i.e,wen we really know the importance of food….
    also finding mud kadai is impossible even on googling

    • Thank you, Srilatha, for the visit and the comment. I really hope that someday we reorient ourselves back to agriculture – the king among professions, according to the Tamil Sage, Tiruvalluvar.

  3. Dear Om,

    A very nice and informative piece. A sad reality and a pity really that not many are realizing it. I also remember all these little traders selling all kinds of things on carts. In fact, I got one of my first dolls from them if I remember right….

  4. vimala madon says:

    the few clay pieces I have, made by well-known artisans, are displayed as show pieces. Just as are the stone dosa grinder, the flat masala grinder and the round stone chakki.
    It is sad that the traditional crafts earlier used in everyday life are no longer in demand and as Shernaz says, the best of the artisans are gone elsewhere and their children aspire to lives which they would never be able to afford on the income from their traditional occupations. It is good that haats and shilparamams are coming up to revive some of the crafts to some extent. Incidentally, are you aware that the famous Aranmula mirror of kerala made out of metal and having the reflective sheen of glass is now made by just 2 families?

    • Thank you, Vimala Madon Madam.
      I too have heard about this famous Aranmula mirror. But I was not aware that is now made by just 2 families. Sad. I guess most of the others (younger generations) who were in the business must have chosen “IT” !

  5. Beyniaz says:

    Good topic, Om.I feel that there is nothing to beat the cool water stored in an earthen pot in summer. ..and the clay pot cooking of Malaysia.

  6. Shernaz says:

    You are right, Om, to a certain extent. I didn’t go in much for ready made clothes. But to the dismay of so many of us ladies here it is a nightmare finding a really good tailor. Material after good material has been spoiled by ‘master’ tailors and we are forced to go in for ready mades or settle for poorly stitched clothes. And we have been to some of the best tailors, not just in this city. The best craftsmen/proffessionals in various fields moved out of the country years back and we have to deal with half-baked ones, whether it is plumbers, electricians, carpenters….

    • Thank you, Shernaz. The absence of good tailors can again be attributed to giant business houses that retail ready made clothes. Because the ordinary “good” tailor, is unable to sustain his business just be stitching – which is why, they have increased the stitching charges, so that only those who don’t mind the cost, go for the stitched clothes. For example, a good tailor in Chennai charges anywhere between 200 to 500 for ONE pant! (whereas one can get a very nice ready made pant for that money) – And again, to stitch a shirt, they charge anywhere between 150 to 300 (For which amt, one can get a nice, ready made one) – so, the average consumer is FORCED to go for readymades, going by the cost analysis.

  7. A.Hari says:

    Very well written OM. The advantage of small traders is that they were able to relate to individual likes & dislikes of regular buyers and will strive to give good value for money. That is missing in these mega malls. What to do?

    • Thank you, Hari. Yes, Bigger is not necessarily better. But as days go by, we will have to increasingly deal with mechanic computers and gizmos at these malls, I guess.

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