As one cruises down NH 37 near Bokakhat (Rajabari) in Golaghat district of Upper Assam, one can never miss out a signboard where it is written ‘Prithvi Handicrafts’. More than the signboard, it is the exquisite woodwork items displayed on the roadside that captivates one’s attention instantly.
The man behind this awe-inspiring woodwork is Sanjib Boidya, who hails from the said area. He is an artisan with a social obligation and also bears an attitude of social consciousness. His work raises the quotient of wonder, desire and excitement. His work – ‘a rhino calf sleeping on top of mother rhino’ – sends out clearly the message – ‘Save the Rhinos’. Says 28-yr-old Sanjib, “I have grown up almost alongside the Kaziranga National Park (KNP). I go to the Park whenever I feel like and sit on the roadside and gaze at the winged species and animals for hours together. I carve out a lot of my designs looking at these species. I have also been reading in the papers how, over the years, poachers have mercilessly been killing rhinos for the horn. This should be stopped at any cost and I am trying to do my part by creating the said work of art.”
Sanjib learnt the craft from his once-neighbour Late Bikash Gogoi in the year 2008. And, since then, he has been working with his hands and has been making unique pieces – giving attention to detail and aesthetic perfection. Sanjib informs that his father, Satyendra Boidya, also had a yen for woodwork from whom he initially “took money” to pursue his passion.
He makes beautiful items from tea bushes, tree seeds (chandan tree), coconut shells, tree creepers and vines growing in abundance near his house in Rajabari. Having a natural talent for creative expression, since 2002 he started crafting different designs on a single piece of wood. “My stuff which makes for brisk sale is rhinos, lions and bears which I make from tea bushes. Various lodges and hotels of Assam – starting from Nalbari to Digboi – buy my woodwork items and even the Army people buy it, especially to display in their canteen,” he informs.
Using novelties with pride and fullness, Sanjib participates at the various trade fairs held in Assam – Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Guwahati and Digboi. Sanjib further informs, “I also participate in the Assam Sahitya Sabha exhibitions and also take part in the trade fairs in Delhi and Kolkata. The Directorate of Handloom & Textiles, Government of Assam, has issued a special card to me to participate in the trade fairs.”
He adds, “Previously, trade fairs used to be held only in the main towns of Assam but, now since Government expos are held even in the interior areas, sale is not very brisk. The reason being, previously since trade fairs and expos were not very common events, people from the villages used to flock to the towns with the purpose of visiting these trade fairs and my stuff used to sell like hot cakes. I sell my stuff even in the Raas Mahotsavs.”
Sanjib and his assistants (comprising 10 to 12 people) make these handcrafted, high quality woodwork items. They are living their dream! Following their passion!
In this digital, high-yield manufacturing age, the artisan is pursuing his dream with his hammer and chisel as he says, “I create my own designs. I use varnish, fevicol, lac, spirit and putty. After the Government has introduced GST, a lot goes on making each item and consequently, the prices of my stuffs have also risen – it starts from Rs 100 and is priced up to Rs 20,000.”
To give colour to the woodwork items, Sanjib uses blowlamp, touchwood and showcase (a kind of paint). Where do you get the tea bushes from? “I bring the tea bushes from the various estates in and around Golaghat. The tea garden authorities contact me once the bushes mature. I buy it at a nominal price from them.”
Whenever the artisan is in Guwahati, he makes it a point to visit Guwahati Zoo to take idea to carve out figures of birds like peacock.
Sanjib further informs, “When the Kaziranga National Park is thrown open to tourists, they (read tourists) make it a point to visit my roadside stall. Mostly foreigners flock to my shop – from France and US and they tend to pick up small items which is easy for them to carry back home.”
Sanjib hopes to get awards in the future through this art of his which he sums up by saying requires “great commitment. My goal is customer satisfaction and everything that a craftsman has at his or her disposal should be used well: Hands, brain, tradition and the latest technology.”