Kumbharwada, located at Dharavi, Mumbai, is the centre of traditional potters from Gujarat who settled here several generations ago. The Dekha Undekha project has sought out a few locals from this community, some of whom are professional potters and some others who are not. Every session is an opportunity to watch their fingers and palms fashion an expression into clay, slowly at times, nimbly on some other occasions. A closer look at the hands that deal with the earth.
There is no denying that Ashwin Solanki is a man who has spunk. Before turning to the call of his ancestral craft, Ashwin held various jobs at places like ICICI, HDFC, Standard Chartered, Axis Bank and was even involved in diamond cutting at Surat. Now aged twenty five, he has come to believe that being a potter has instilled in him independence and ownership of his business. He creates a variety of ceramic items like flower pots, diyas, ghadka and designed pots. He mainly earns his living through making dahi pots for a dairy manufacturer in Marine Lines, Mumbai.
Parvati Harjichitroda is a lady of resolve. She lived in Diu before she married and came to Kumbharwada. Parvati turned to pottery as a means of livelihood when her husband was rendered disabled due to paralysis. As the mother of five children, she is famed as one of the first women who took to the wheel to make fashion pots. She makes garbis, diyas and pots. She also specializes in clay plates meant for pujas that have a little pot, a coconut and five diyas placed on them.
Hansa is a cook at the SNEHA centre in Dharavi and is the mother of an engineer. As a girl, she worked in her father’s place making diyas and pots. A quiet woman, she prides in being independent and for having taken care of her son’s education. With her own money she has travelled to places such as Punjab and Vaishnodevi.
Mamta Solanki is Ashwin’s younger sister and a primary school teacher at Kalakila Municipal School at Sion, Mumbai. She teaches English and loves poetry and rhyming words specially. She never fancied clay earlier, but the sessions at Dekha Undekha project have motivated her to play with this medium and indulge in something new. When Mamta loves to dance, there is no stopping here, especially at weddings.
Daksha Nitesh Waghela is a twenty four year old who does what she calls is a ‘house-cleaning job.’ Her sister is a bride at the Solanki household and she herself is married with two children. Ceramic art is a new-found love apart from which she has enrolled herself in a tailoring class. She loves to cook dosas, idlis and non-vegetarian food. Visitors should consider themselves lucky as here is one woman who loves to throw a party!
A bride in the Solanki household, Lakshmi is Ashwin’s sister-in-law and Daskha’s sister. Her involvement with clay started only after her marriage. She readies clay for the Solanki household and does colourfully painted diyas for sale. She loves going for movies but can do so only if she gets time off from her daily chores.