The muddy affair of Bindapur

A photostory by Akash Khanna and Tushar Kumar
Life of a pottery artist in Bindapur village, Delhi.

Nature has its own ways of greeting human beings. Be it a slow and predictable transition of seasons or a sudden climate change, nature makes us believe more in its power and give a lesson of life on every step.

One such element of nature, mud has its own meaning to it. It is a symbol of mortality and immortality at the same time. It comes from the mother earth, we make utensils or some other figure and when it demolishes it again goes to the nature in the very basic form of it.

Bindapur, a small village lying in the heart of the National Capital, depicts such a tale of astute certainty that revolves around life.

Also, known as Kumhar gram, West Delhi-located Bindapur is a homely palace for people belonging to the Kumhar (pottery) community. Most of them were settled from Uttar Pradesh, while some of them have their roots connected deep down to the village.

A swift but shaky rickshaw ride dropped us to the doorway of a completely different world.

Rickshaw driver, pointing us towards the direction, said: “Iss se aage nhi jayenge. Yha se shuru ho gya h gaon, vohot aage tak faila h. Aap log iss taraf sa jaiye, dekh kar wapis aa jaiye. (I can’t take you beyond this. The village has started and it’s spread to a far-stretched limit. You go walking from this side, take a sight journey and return from that side)”

There were shops, shacks and counters filled with pottery articles, ranging widely from diyas, kulhads, pots, utensils and decoration artefacts. Those sights could be seen in reflection of our eyes, perfectly blended with joy, curiosity and eagerness to move forward, to explore more and more of that muddy place.

The mud was in the air. No, literally it was all filled with the mud!

The more we went into the horizons of that small but alluring village, the more we forgot our daily lives, attachments and struggles for survival in the highly-populated metro city. Despite being well-connected to Delhi, Bindapur, has somehow manged to retain its originality amid the fast-moving society, which is always on run.

It stopped me right there, frozen for a few seconds or minutes to realise that ‘why we’re always in a hurry?’, ‘where do we want to reach?’, ‘what would be the life after reaching there?’

Although Bindapur was like any other village, or even more or less modern or conventional to others if we compare, it made me think for a while. Watching those mud heaps around me in first step, figures in the second and its broken pieces in the third, depicted the story of life in a photo-finish fashion.

Moving forward to our pursuit of reaching its origin, we entered a house that was torn to perfect curves of disaster. There wasn’t a latch or strong enough doors to protect the privacy and thus, we intruded to capture some of the beautiful and real-time moments of pottery or life around the spinning wheel.

Head of the family that migrated to Delhi long back from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, Vinod Prasad seemed enjoying every moment of his work, despite being shattered due to the economical aspect of it.

He was humming songs, mixed up with some unnatural music due to pan masala that occupied most of his mouth. Giving the pots its basic shape or garahi, the process of doing so, Vinod’s equipment was highly inspired from our day-to-day things.

Combs with a few broken teeth, empty bodies of pens and markers, rings, bangles, knifes and blades were the things that gave the mud a meaningful shape.

In contrast to Vinod, an old but energetic man, there were also some young craftsmen from the family, who were engrossed in the pottery work since their childhood.

The 26-year-old Raju Kumar was the youngest custodian of the fine art form in the family. However, there could be some hues of the modern world witnessed in him, Raju seemed happy holding the responsibility of carrying the family work forward.

“This is our family business and I am doing this since childhood. It’s not great in monetary terms but we manage to make our ends meet through this,” he said.

Just like Raju, Ramkaran, 30, is holding the custom on his sylphlike shoulders safely. “Hum bhi isi parivaar ka hissa hain (I am also a part of this family),” he said, with a pride in his voice.

This one family showcases the life of hundreds of other families from the same profession, living in Bindapur village. Although they don’t have much access and facilities of the modern world, they seemed more content with their tiny, troublesome but tremendous lives, connected well to the nature, mother earth and sand, clay, mud or whatever you call it, an element that symbolises life and immortality beyond it.


Story by: Akash Khanna (@ArtSaptak)

Photographs by: Tushar Kumar (@tusharkumr, Tushar Kumar Photography and tusharkumr)

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