It was like any other single story, where people all around me reacted in a similar way when I told them that I’d be going to Chhattisgarh. Their first reaction was worry, then they asked me how long I would be staying there and when I was uncertain about it, they became skeptical.
Initially when I got to know the assignment that I would be working on in Chhattisgarh I was pretty excited as I was getting an opportunity to travel around making a documentary on toy making in Chhattisgarh and I wasn’t actually scared to go there as I’ve been to Chhattisgarh very frequently fourteen years ago, the then Madhya Pradesh. Things did change drastically over the decade and now it’s no longer a part of Madhya Pradesh and is a separate state. Chhattisgarh is a beautiful state with a lot of green cover and heritage. Since, it’s monsoon now the green cover looks fresh. Farming is the major occupation and a lot of industries are there too. It is a little underdeveloped but the people are very warm.
Since I was documenting, I had to cover eight villages in two days, that is four villages per day in Raigarh and Pussore Tehsil of Raigarh district respectively. After traveling for about 28hours by train from Pune I reached Raigarh and it was worth the journey. Raigarh has many steel industries, yet it’s a small city and hasn’t developed much.
Every village that I’ve been to, the people there were very warm and welcoming. I interacted a lot with the local nurses there known as Mitanin. These Mitanins instruct the mothers about child care and take pregnant women to hospitals and get them checked up there. Apart from this the SHRC of Chhattisgarh along with CLR, Pune have come up with an initiative of toy making, where the Mitanins were trained in making toys from waste material and they distributed them for free to the kids. From the interactions that I had, I learnt that these women were initially apprehensive about making toys as they had no prior knowledge. But once they started making the toys they started enjoying it, they got nostalgic about how they used to play during their childhood with their toys. Even while they were telling me about this I could see the spark in their eyes. The Mitanins were also happy about the recognition that they got after the toy making campaign as people from different villages started recognizing them. They felt empowered with this toy making project, though that wasn’t the aim of this project. It was more about making toys out of local material and give them to the kids in order to help them develop their skills. It just so happened that in this whole process of toy making indirectly the women also got empowered which is a plus point.
Apart from the eight villages I also visited an other village named “Ektal” of Pussore Tehsil, where the villagers are known for making handmade metal craft known as Dokra Art. The village is also home for many National and State level award winning artisans. They continue to use the age old technique of Lost Wax Method that was used even during the times of Indus Valley Civilization. In this technique they make moulds out of clay on which they stick a pattern with strands made out of bee wax and cover it with an other layer of clay, between these two layers they pour molten metal. This whole thing is baked on charcoal. When it’s being baked the wax strands melt and the metal settles down in its place. One ought to visit this village and have a look at the art work though the items are a little costly, they are worth the price after all the hard work the artisans put into making them.