Working with bamboo is a part of the life of people here- Many people weave baskets to keep poultry, bhaakri (bread) or cowdung, Malai to catch fish and Kangi to store grain, at their homes.
But some among them are artisans.
Barku Kondaji Pore, of Shiswad learnt all that he knows about this craft by watching his father work. He says,
“Just like the teacher in school gives you a beating if you don’t know your letters, you learnt this trade when, while working, you cut your hand on the scythe and it bleeds.”
This is their family profession, but Barku’s own children are not pursuing it. “If they don’t even touch the bamboo, how will they know how to do it?”, laughs his wife, who also helps him with the weaving. She learnt this craft only after they got married and recalls how her father-in-law made her undo a whole Kangi and redo it because he detected a small mistake in the weave.
One Kangi usually takes almost one whole day to make if the bamboo strips are cut and ready.
Barku says that nowadays the number of artisans doing this work has reduced. Also this trade is rather dependent on the availability of bamboo. Earlier it was freely available in the jungle, but now they have to buy it.
“My father’s time was totally different. He sold one Kangi for Rs.7. Today I sell it for Rs.1000. But the work is hard. There is hardly any bamboo in the forest and even the Forester doesn’t allow us to take the little that there is. We have also planted some bamboo here, near our home. It will grow enough by next year and we can use it.”
However, it is not that the younger generation has totally given up this trade. Navsu Dhondu Bhangre of Khadki Budruk is in fact Barku’s student. Navsu says, “This was not my family profession, but I learnt this from my brother-in-law, my wife’s brother is an artisan. I lived there, with them for 5 years and learnt everything about this trade and now I have started off on my own. There is a good market for this now. I decided to learn this craft because if I know this, I don’t need to go looking for work anywhere.”
According to Barku , “ Today, there is no alternative to a school education. If you don’t know your letters, will anyone even look at you?”
But Navsu says that Kangi-weaving is a very good supplementary livelihood to agriculture. Every farmer, whether rich or poor, needs a Kangi to store grain. Rats cannot enter it and the grain remains dry. The length and size can also be customised according to the customer’s needs. Kangi orders start coming in after the rice harvest every year. Every season, Navsu sells atleast 10-12 pieces at an average cost of Rs.1000 each.
Navsu’s children go to school but are also learning to make Kangis. “This is much better than going to Narayangaon to work as labour. I can stay at home and earn just as much or even more. I will definitely teach my children this craft.”