Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, September 22
Though life has limped back to normalcy in most markets, the buzz on the Old Jail Road is still missing in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Every year, people used to visit the Old Jail Road to purchase effigies of Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbhakarna, without which Dasehra celebrations remain incomplete.
Numerous Dasehra committees used to buy effigies from this market, but around 100 to 150 craftsmen have been rendered jobless due to the pandemic. Artisans spend most of their time giving shape to effigies for their customers, who hail from Jammu, Hoshiarpur, Chamba, Chandigarh and Tarn Taran.
Artists, who are in this trade for the last five decades, said after the Amritsar Dasehra tragedy, their business and profit got reduced to half, but the pandemic hit them harder.
Sanjeevan Lal (62), a father of six kids, said, “I have been preparing effigies for the past 45 years. Dasehra is the only time of the year, when we earn enough. This year, due to restrictions imposed in the wake of the Covid-19, there is little chance of Ramlila getting the nod. I cannot believe I am sitting idle. Earlier, we used to rely on Dasehra to make up for our losses. However, all our hopes have been dashed to the ground.”
“Earlier, two months before Dasehra, we used to collect material from Meerut, Himachal Pradesh and other states. We had craftsmen from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, who would do the finishing work on effigies. Now, there is no hustle and bustle in the market. We don’t know if we’ll get permission to carry on with our work,” said Arjun Rajput (23).
After losing his parents, Arjun had been making effigies from the last six to seven years. He is proud that he managed to marry off his two sisters from the money he had earned after selling effigies.
“A pair of three 50-ft effigies gives us a profit of around Rs60,000. And by the time Dasehra arrives, we easily earn up to Rs1 to Rs2 lakh. A 25-ft effigy cost between Rs15,000 and Rs20,000. We earn around Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 from small effigies,” he said. More than 50 families, mostly from Uttar Pradesh, work hard to meet the demand, which they also receive from Non-Resident Indians as well. Sanjeevan was a national-level wrestler in the early ‘80s and he had also participated in the Asian Games.
He left his sporting career to help his father in expanding the business. Nowadays, he is making articles to be sold in temples.
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