When I was younger, I often asked my dad to take me on rides on his scooter. I would sit in the back, on the pillion seat, and look about the city as we rode. The city, in my memory seemed so colorful. Dark tarred roads, with huge, aged green trees, and high compound walls with colors in reds, blues and yellows. No, the walls were not painted in these colors, there were paintings on these walls, of advertisements, and channels, and new brands of soap, shops, hardware stores and public advertisements about polio, etc.
Every month, the walls would be repainted with a primer, ready for newer advertisements and new colors on the walls. India at that time was a poor country, and much less globalized. The concept of billboards was not popular and much less known. Society bounding walls were the only way to promote advertisements and public messages.
Then came the concept of fliers and billboards. While the walls were stuck with small annoying flyers for advertisements, bigger companies made billboards where information/messages could be painted. As time passed, the whole advertising scenario changed. Walls were now painted in gray with messages which read in red letters: “STICK NO BILLS.” The fun of walking through the lanes reading colored letters and pictures was gone. Billboard advertising gained its importance, which were straddled on top of bigger buildings. One could usually find a grid of bamboos on which the talented painters would sit in dangerous positions and paint advertisement messages and pictures on the boards. Lovely and beautiful paintings of actors sporting various advertisements could be seen. But this lasted for a very short time. Globalization took over, and so did the world of electronics and print.
Now-a-days, we see people standing on the same dangerous grid of huge billboards, and putting glue to huge papers to be stuck on the boards. Print media has taken over and how!Now we have papers, glue and photographs to complement our ads. I wonder where those talented painters are, who painted beautifully without any prior education in art and painting, and only for a merge sum..
In India poverty still exists. As Indians, still in the rising, we do not consider what will happen to the extremely poor. What has happened to this unknown talent? We may never know.
And where are the local canners? Remember that time when every house had cane-made ottomans? They were available everywhere and were even sold on streets. Widely and regularly, they were used as balcony/garden seating or as a part of living furniture. Made of slanting cane sticks tied with jute strings and were complimentary seating to the “diwans” in the house. Although easily destructible, they were to be the part of the house. My mother used to make round and fitted cushions on them with colorful covers so that the prickly jute stings would not hurt when seated. They were replaced every 2 years as they easily wore and would lose their strings and weaving at the bottom.
The weavers understood this flaw and put a cycle rubber tire on the bottom to increase their grip and keep them intact for a longer time. Maybe many customers decided to not by these products as they had to be replaced frequently. The rubber tire lost the beauty of the cane-seaters, but their market values rose. Soon, the local cane furniture makers started to make cane sofa sets, cane couches with super cushy seating, dining tables, garden/patio furniture and much more, increasinging the use of canes in India.
Soon the corporates barged into this business. They put the canes into big glass made shops and made cushion seating for these chairs. Canes then started to find their designs in PVC material too. Something like the Levis – Walmart competition. The corporates traveled to South East Asian countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Philippines to find better bamboo in these countries.
During this time, import had found its way into the buyer’s lifestyle. “I got this imported from X” was the name of the game. So, the corporate cane furniture dealers decided to not just import raw bamboo, they decided to give economic growth to the South East Asian countries. They decided to let the foreign people to make cane for them and imported “ready-made” cane furniture to India and sold them for almost double the prices.
Today, Bangalore, a metropolitan city of South India, has numerous cane furniture show rooms. From garden seating to bedroom sleeping, to study tables and swings, furniture can be found in big glass furniture stores in Bangalore’s high class areas. The city which once boasted about cane talent is now boasting about imported cane furniture.
“Why?” I asked, “Do you have to import when talent is available right here?” Better weaving mechanism, better raw material and high margin profits, was the response.
So, people will now buy furniture which is imported from other countries because it was famous in their own city long time ago? Is it not beneficial to teach local talents the newer, better weaving mechanisms than import? Can’t we grow same quality materials in India? If Avocado can find its nutrients in the soils of India, can’t cane bamboo too?
The truth, I believe, is our lifestyle. Our magnanimous ways of showing off wealth though materialistic owning like glass, mortar and furniture. We do not care about the economy of India and how we can all play a part in taking each Indian to better income and better means of living.
Drum rolls and the voice in the back says: hence India became an importer, but poverty still exists (because the talent is lost and so are the people). Soon, India will have thousands of people creating art only on computers as graphic designers or photographers, while the generational talented Indians will remain unknown!
It is not very complimenting to us as Indians. Let’s all take it up as our responsibility to help the not so rich to earn their livelihood with their talents which were passed on from generations. Let’s support our local economy and then worry about giving money to other countries!