The patient middle aged man presses his tool deep into the clay repeatedly and gracefully. Soon an eye of the tiger emerges. He steps back to take a look. Pleased he goes back to work, perfecting the eye.
The flash of the camera does not distract him. He is too focussed to even notice. Behind him there are idols of different shapes and at different stages of their life cycle.He is one the god makers of Kumartuli.
The basic forms of the gods are set in hay, clay from the sacred river Ganges is plastered over the hay to form the shape. Once the clay sets, the gods are decorated. The months leading up to Durga Puja the all important festival of the city of joy is an important time for the artisans. It is not just godess that needs to be moulded, the entourage with the tiger she rides, the demon she kills all have to done. After the ten days of festivities the idols are immersed in the Ganges from where the artisans will collect the clay for the next set of festivities. Thus the god makers take from the earth and give back in equal measure.
Kumartuli when translated into the vernacular language means ‘potter’s quarters’. Here generations after generations have been fashioning the gods of Calcutta and beyond year on year. Sons watch fathers, nephews learn form uncles. No formal classes are held, they grow up watching the patient men with bent backs until the day they pick up the tools.