Updated: Jan 25, 2022
We met Jagu da on the evening of 20th July, 2021 in Sonajhuri Haat, Shantiniketan. Surrounded by his friends, also fellow artisans, Jagu da had the friendliest face in the entire crowd; and seemed like the perfect person to start our mapping process with. Little did we know that our first encounter with an artisan in Birbhum would so quickly convert into one of the best conversations we ever had.
Jagu da hails from Surul, a village right next to Viswa Bharati University. Surul consists of a large population of tribes such as, Bagdis, Bauris, Haris and Doms; and a majority of the people engaged in weaving. Surul is mostly known to people for its vast culture displayed through terracotta carvings in its temples, well preserved and distinct.
Jagu da is an artisan selling his own products in the fair, unlike most other people in Sonajhuri Haat. His works include both Dokra and Terracotta materials, and “are of the best quality” to quote him accurately. While talking with us on raw materials for his products, time required to make one product, selling these products in the market, and the profit margin, he let us know that on very lucky days, he receives a profit of little more than INR 20. His income is insufficient for him to continue with his handicraft production, which has been a profession in his family since the past three generations.
While talking about his experience during the pandemic he let us know how uncertain their livelihood has been since the past one and a half years. The lockdown imposed because of the pandemic resulted in loss of a market place for him, which resulted to a halt in his production. He also let us know how most of his villagers, previously artisans have shifted their career into driving Totos (a form of local transport in the area). With a broken voice, Jagu da informed us that if the pandemic induced situation continues to threaten their livelihood, he would also have to reconsider on his income source. We also approached Jagu da on voluntary association with an alternate e-market space for selling his products and also on a course imparting knowledge on Financial Literacy, Market demands, Product Innovation and Communication skills. Not only did he express his desire to work as a beneficiary partner in Scratch, but also introduced us with his friends in the Sonajhuri market, and gave us leads on artisans in need of the intervention in his village, Surul.