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During the day Balasubramanian, a Ph D degree holder in Commerce, is an Assistant Professor at Dharmapuram Adhinam Arts and Science College at Tharangambadi. After his work hours, he dons the hat of a potter and sits before the wheel, skillfully making pots and earthenware. He has clients in Singapore and Dubai waiting for his pots and the orders sometimes are more than he can handle.
Balasubramanin was forbidden from taking up pottery by his father. The reason? Pottery was their family profession and his father, Pandian from Mannampandhal in Mayiladuthurai didn’t want him to take it up. Pandian had three sons and two daughters. He allowed none of them into pottery insisting that pot making should end with him. He used to reason that pottery is a difficult job and doesn’t pay well.
He allowed none of them into pottery insisting that pot making should end with him. He used to reason that pottery is a difficult job and doesn’t pay well.
While Balasubramanian became an assistant professor, one of his brothers is working in Singapore while another is working in his home town. After Pandian died in 2012, the pottery wheel at his house stopped and the shop was closed. But the customers were still coming to their house asking for the pots.
Balasubramanian did not want his father’s skill to die with him. He decided to pursue the trade. “I have watched my father doing it but never touched the potter’s wheel. I did not know a thing but was determined to learn,” he said.
He sought the help of his relatives who were into the business. Gradually, he gained the skill and started making tumblers to earthen stoves. It was not easy for him to make the wares without adequate practice but he persisted. Balasubramanian is now a skilled potter.
He wakes up at 5 a.m. every day and works with the wheel till 9 a.m. leaving for college at 10 a.m. Once he returns from the college, he resumes pot making from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. His mother and wife helping in marketing the earthen ware.
Though he started late, Balasubramanian’s skill did not go unnoticed. His beautifully made pottery attracted the attention of a Dubai based restaurant. The restaurant placed orders for earthenware from his shop. Since he makes the pots as per the client requirement, YouTubers who host cooking shows prefer his pots.
Though he started late, Balasubramanian’s skill did not go unnoticed. His beautifully made pottery attracted the attention of a Dubai based restaurant. The restaurant placed orders for earthenware from his shop.
He also makes toy ware using mud. Even if the order is just ten wares, he would not turn them down but makes them with utmost dedication. “The orders are overwhelming at times and I don’t find time to keep up,” he says.
Balasubramanian also takes a moment to register the struggle of potters in getting quality mud. Though they are permitted to collect the mud from water bodies for free, the government has banned mining because the permits were misused by the soil mafia. The blanket ban on soil mining has greatly impacted the livelihood of potters, he says. He has to pay money to get the raw material. After the regime change, the present government has allowed them to collect soil from water bodies.
Balasubramanian’s father Pandian stopped his children pursuing the family business because it involves labourious work and the returns could be realized only eight days after a pot was made. These factors are affecting traditional pot making, he says.
Balasubramanian has named his workshop as ‘Mannuyir Kalaikoodam’. Every earthenware comes to shape as the potter breathes life into it with his skill so the name is quite fitting, he says. He is also determined to teach pottery to his daughter so that she pursues her father’s skill. It is a traditional art which should not die because of neglect, he added.
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