Don’t know where to start from? Last two days had been very kind to rareitis.
Last April, we came to know about a rare Indian metal art called Bidriware, made in the Bidar District of Karnataka Bidar. So when we planned to visit Bidar, like any other person who are not even remotely connected to Bidar, we looked into ways and means to reach there from Bengaluru. All our searches to reach Bidar, finally crossed the Karnataka state boundary to its neighboring state Telangana and took us to Hyderabad, which is the nearest metropolis to Bidar. Bidar is only 134 kms from Hyderabad by road.
And when it comes to Hyderabad, team rareitis know only three things – The Charminar, Hyderabadi Biriyani and Mr. Nunna Veerabadhra Rao (Managing Director, Ripples Construction Products Pvt. Ltd). We booked our tickets to Hyderabad as well as for internal transfers, and called up on Mr. Rao to inform about our itinerary, which in no time it was changed and before we could blink our eyes, we found ourselves in the clutches of Mr. Rao’s and Kishore’s hospitality. A well-arranged stay and a car with chauffer at our disposal was waiting for us in Hyderabad. May be this is the Ripple effect!
So as destined on 22nd October 2016, we left early morning for our journey between the two states. The cool “early winter” breeze and the view of the sugar cane fields on both sides of the road further rejuvenated us for the day. At Bidar, Abdul was waiting for us and was more than glad to meet us and took us directly to his shop which also happens to be their workshop. Abdul is known to us through Sahayog, a NGO from Bidar, closely working with the artisans of Bidriware and working towards their upliftment.
At the workshop Shilp Guru Mohammed Rauf, Abdul’s father was in his work sitting on the floor under a huge photo of him receiving the Shilp Guru award from the then President of India Mr. Abdul Kalam. He was making Alaudin’s Chirag, an order of 15 pieces from a trader in Hyderabad. He looked at me as any other visitor in his shop, exchanged a pleasantry and continued in his work. We were in awe of him, a master craftsman, recognized by the Indian government, recipient of many national and international awards, and yet so humble and cool. There were many other photographs on the walls of his various visits to the US, Germany, West Indies, Middle East etc. We were also equally surprised by the conditions they were living in. A small shop, with the Shilp Guru and his team working on the floor, there were hardly any furniture for anyone to sit apart from the plastic chairs they have kept at one corner. Their house was on the back side adjoining the shop, where Shilp Guru and his family comprising of three sons, and their elder daughter-in-law with their child were staying.
Soon Basit the second son joined us. Both brothers showed us many Albums, products they have made like Huge tables, Teapoys, Plates, Hookahs, Vases, Tiles, Elephants, Pots etc. They told me the names of the end users of these prized catches, who are like the “Who is who” of India, and many abroad. One can see the sense of pride on their faces. On further probing, we understood that none of these products were sold by them directly to these names they were taking. They expressed their helplessness in getting the right price of these crafted marvels they have made. They showed us many products which they very well know are being sold in the shops at Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Delhi, at twice or some time thrice the cost they get. It was sad to see that they were contended in their helplessness.
We then told them of our initiative, about rareitis where they can sell these products directly to the customers all over the globe, get better returns of their efforts and skill, and yet, can have a delighted customer returning to them every time, since they get it cheaper than the shops and emporiums in big cities. The idea was a welcome to them, as they can manage their own store, sell directly under their own name. We told them to specifically put Shilp Guru’s name on all the products they sell on rareitis, since that is the mark of authenticity. Not every craftsman working in Bidriware is awarded the Shilp Guru title, and one has to earn for it.
Bidriware an artform which came to India from Persia during the rein of Sultan Ahmed Shah Bahmani in the 15th century is a dying art today. The new generation is not much keen to join, since the returns are very less compared to the effort they have to put. The middlemen and the traders take the cream in this business. The Bidri craftsmen who at one time, were across this city which is walled from four sides by the fort are very few in number now. There are initiatives from the government, but it still seems wanting. Bidar which once had foreign students coming to study at the Muhamad Gawan Madrasa during the reins of the Bahmani Sultans don’t have a proper training institute for an artform which is known after it’s name. It’s time that as connoisseurs of ancient art, we take this responsibility to keep it alive. Lets promote Bidriware, and buy directly from artisans like Shilp Guru Mohammed Rauf who otherwise are the last few people who know this centuries old royal artform and will definitely fade away with them if we don’t rise in time. shall History will never forgive us.
As we said last two days have been kind to us. First the hospitality we received at Hyderabad, then the pleasant journey from Hyderabad to Bidar and the wonderful day we spent with the Shilp Guru and his two sons among so many Bidriware products.
To know more about Bidriware, please click here