The Pottery Maker

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The story of hard working pottery maker.

Submitted: September 11, 2013

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Submitted: September 11, 2013

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The Pottery Maker

Subba Rao

Pottery maker Ramu looks always tired and sweaty; a tall heavy set fair skin man with deep wrinkled face from exposure to sun whole day working outdoors with clay. He makes earthen pots and idols over a large wooden pottery wheel to fire them in a mud oven burning dry paddy husk or coloring the products already fired in the oven. Ramu’s turban made from a long piece of rough white cloth appeared more like a large white dome with terraces on his head. It covered both his ears and part of his upper cheeks from hot sun. A large dangling white mustache obscuring his mouth moved up and down while he spoke. With his ears and mouth covered respectively, one can see only his large nose and beady eyes. His front yard was a showcase of his finished products; a wide variety of cooking and flower earthen pots and a collection of colorful idols of Hindu god and goddesses.

Working with pottery clay is an art passed on from generations. People in the pottery business as a group though occupy lower end of Hindu hierarchical society, as a caste they command some respect in the society not for making household earthen pots but for making clay idols of Hindu gods and goddesses. There are scores of Hindu gods but only handfuls were worshipped on a regular basis. The clay idols of Krishnan, Sita, Hanuman, Ganesh, Shiva and Lakshmi were always popular and in demand. The clay idols of gods and goddesses have a look of tranquility and holiness to make devotees feel sacred during the idol worship. The shape, color and look of clay figures of various gods sold in the market were made from molds developed over a period of long time, perhaps hundreds of years.  These molds were passed on from generation to generation among the pottery caste.

The clay idol of Lord Shiva in shades of dark blue with a fierce look holding a spear with three sharp prongs standing on slayed demons with backdrop of snowcapped mountains is the run-of-the-mill idols sold everywhere. Similarly, Lord Hanuman is always painted in bright green in kneel down position with a club shaped weapon next to him. Serene looking goddess Lakshmi always in red sari stands on a giant lotus flower in the middle of a pond and goddess Saraswathi worshipped for knowledge always holds a replica of veena, a musical string instrument.

 The idols were colored bright with red, blue, and green and orange. Each god or goddess was improvised with a special ornament or personal vehicle known to use for travel; a small mouse is a preferred vehicle of Lord Ganesh whereas his brother uses brightly colored Peacock as his vehicle of preference.  God Vishnu carries a large conch with one hand and with other three he carries other ornaments but the ornaments they carry were specific and like identification markers for each one of them. Lord Rama always carries a bow and arrow, Hanuman carries a Gadha, a heavy club shaped weapon and so on.

While Juggernaut growing up, pottery maker Ramu living in the neighborhood used to give clay idols for free in exchange for free medical care from Juggernaut’s physician father. Thus, the house was full of colorful clay idols collected over the years. Every year, a week before the beginning of the annual celebrations of Lord Ganesh, potter Ramu brought a clay idol of Lord Ganesh to Juggernaut home as a gift; the Ganesh idol, a chubby figure with an elephant head colorfully painted sitting on a small mouse, his personal vehicle was 3 feet tall and weighed around 25 pounds or so.  After worship with flowers and twigs of various plants, as per the tradition, the idol shall be discarded at a river or a stream or any water body but Juggernaut’s father saved it year after year, thus the idols of Ganesh were accumulated in the storage room; only natural deterioration over the years ended their shelf life.

Inspired by an American movie King Kong, Juggernaut father drew a sketch of King Kong in threatening pose and asked potter Ramu to make a large model of King Kong using clay.  Juggernaut visited Ramu’s yard with his father on few occasions to see the progress. Ramu had difficulty in modeling King Kong using the sketch. Potter Ramu was not an sculptor, he was a traditional potter good in making run of the mill pots and idols using molds.  After several weeks of errors and corrections, he brought three feet high King Kong brightly painted and glazed in black with streaks of silver and dark blue in threatening pose. The King Kong’s mouth was wide open exposing large sharp white teeth and long red tongue sticking out. The sculpture looked more grotesque than threatening. Nevertheless, Juggernaut father kept the King Kong on a small pedestal like piece of an art in the center of large living room.

Potter Ramu was a good potter in making clay idols with intricate details and paint them in bright colors but to strike a conversation with him was very hard. On occasions when the potter visited Juggernaut’ home to deliver an earthen pot or a brightly colored idol as a gift, Juggernaut tried to strike a casual conversation with him but Ramu had very little to say, his responses were always either yes or no as if his earthen pots and colorful clay idols speaks louder than his own words.

 The potter Ramu’s King Kong earthen model out lived him and Juggernaut’ father still collecting dust startling anybody that enters dark storage room.


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