Bhateri Devi , 62, a resident of the Kumhar Colony who helps her sons with colouring the diyas sighs, "I no longer dream of big profits. I simply hope our ends meet." Uttam Nagar's Kumhar Colony, home to India's largest potter community, is one of the largest wholesale markets for earthen items. Diwali is famous as the festival of lights, yet the poverty and helplessness of potters here narrate a dark reality.
As Diwali approaches, it is the one time of the year these potters look forward to and when their sales go up the most. However, this year, as the potters of the Kumhar colony prepare for the festival, they're unsure whether they will be able to wish their customers a 'Happy Diwali' at all. Many of them talk about a scarce footfall post-pandemic.
Nearly 800 families in the area have carried on their ancestors' pottery-making traditions. The abode is open to tourists who can take pictures, examine the items up close, and enjoy the process of pottery as it takes place. Every shop in this market offers beautiful and unique items. While some are selling diyas and earthen home decor items, others only work to make idols of Ganesh and Lakshmi.
We spoke to some of the potters to gather their views-
Sohan Prajapati (26), says "My entire life, I have made a living off of this clay roller. I learned this from my father and my father from my Grandfather. After two years of the pandemic, only a few people are coming to market. We used to get six months of Rashan money and money for our other expenses from Diwali sales before, but now, things have changed."
Yashpal Prajapati, 35, a potter of the colony says "We sell earthen diyas for Rs 2 if it’s a regular diya and the designer diyas for Rs 5. The price is already very less but still, people come and say it's very expensive. In a world where people spend nearly 1000 rs in malls, no one is ready to pay rs 2 for our hard work."
Sundar Lal (50), a potter from Rajasthan, says, " I came here from Rajasthan to sell diyas and decorative items. I had to take loans from many people during Covid to sustain and still I'm unable to pay them. The sale is weak this year too but I hope things change."