Superb ivory carvers giving up trade

Master craftsman Mahesh Chand Sharma with his unique wood carvings
Master craftsman Mahesh Chand Sharma with his unique wood carvings

Born to a family of ivory carvers, Pt. Mahesh Chand Sharma learnt the trade by apprenticing with his father and uncles. Born just around the time of India’s partition Mahesh ji now 72 years of age,has spent 55 years of his life working in the trade and still works with his own hands practically everyday.

His journey that began as an ivory carver, had to change course with the worldwide ban on possession of ivory in year 1985. Since then Mahesh ji has shifted to working with wood. He says he loved the art and as this is all he knew, he decided to continue with carving by making a change, replacing ivory with wood.

He has created resplendent replicas in wood of sites like the Taj Mahal, Golden Temple of Amritsar and the India Gate, New Delhi; besides creating the regular products such as mirror and photo frames, temple altars, as well as intricate frames for wall and table clocks. His passion for his trade keeps him going and the fact this is the only skill he has learnt and practiced in his life.

Both his sons, Rakesh and Neeraj Sharma who learnt the trade from him, working on wood, have been recipients of State awards for their promising skills. Initially following the footsteps of their father they have now given up the trade and are doing other jobs in their quest of making a regular living. Mahesh ji said, they gave up the tradeas they were unable to come up with ideas of what to produce to enable make a living with their skills.

Mahesh ji is a much decorated and recognized craftsperson. He has been awarded the National Award for Handicrafts in 1994 and the Guru Shilp Award for Handicrafts 2007.He has also been nominated for consideration in the 2018 Padma Shri list, and is under consideration.

Yet, his sons see no future with this exquisite skill, of a high level, to stake their own future upon.

Where are we going wrong as a nation with our skills policy I often wonder.Actually it is not difficult to understand why youth are staying away.

PtMCS 2Mahesh ji had this to say, firstly, there has to be a way to create an interest in the crafts to woo the young. Secondly, craftsmen must be provided and taken care of with their day-to-day needs, and lastly the young must see enough respect and timely rewards coming their way, as they give up with disappointments.

Moreover, as most craft-persons are not educated enough, they are unable to avail of Government initiatives in the sector,not knowing how to fulfill the required paperwork. The traders in the sector end up availing most schemes that areoffered.

He also thinks the current Prime Minister’s Kaushal Vikas Yojana is practically nonexistent as the officials responsible for its implementation do know not how and where to start. Without their reaching out to the actual beneficiaries andresearching what the craft-persons truly need, it shall remain a daunting task.

Harpreet divides time between writing on various realities of India, design management projects, yoga and working with the social sector.

Harpreet Singh

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