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Driver carves niche with statues

- Life-like sculptures impress visitors at Navjyoti Niketan

A visit to Navjyoti Niketan on Digha Road would amaze you. The Christian charitable trust boasts of some life-size animal sculptures like dinosaur, giraffe, lion and kangaroo.

The man behind these creations is not an artist but a driver.

For Omprakash Ram, making sculptures is a hobby. The 46-year-old driver’s creations adorn Navjyoti Niketan, where he works.

Ram said: “When I got the job of a driver at Navjyoti Niketan, I told Father Sebastian Kanekattil that I couldn’t do any work that requires physical labour. Father said I would have to do gardening and cleaning as well. I told him I was a kalakaar (artist). I requested him to involve me in some work that involved artistry, apart from driving. I told him I could make animal sculptures. He gave his nod but his expression said he was not convinced. When I completed my first sculpture of a giraffe after three days, Father was surprised. Since then, he has always supported me. I have installed eight animal sculptures, including dinosaur, giraffe, elephant, cheetah, deer, kangaroo, bear, lion and others. I will soon complete my ninth sculpture, a chimpanzee.”

Father Sebastian said: “Initially, when Ram approached me to seek permission to create the sculptures, I was apprehensive. I thought he would end up making some silly. However, I did not want to dishearten him. I allowed him to go ahead. I was pleasantly surprised to see the outcome after three days. Ram made a giraffe. It did not take me long to understand that Ram was an artist. I thought of helping him and his talent grow. Today, I am very happy to see his creations adorn the premises of Navjyoti Niketan.”

“The best part of Ram’s sculptures is that that they don’t look like mere figures. They are very life-like. The animals have beautiful expressions. Some animals have their tails raised, others have their mouths open. They are very different from other figurines,” added Father Sebastian.

When The Telegraph asked Ram about his foray into the art, he said: “I learnt the art from noted sculpture artist Ramnathji in 1987. I was shopping with my mother at Digha Ghat. There I came across a Lakshmi sculpture made by Ramnathji. I was amazed to see the posture of the goddess. She was looking very elegant. I decided to learn the art. However, it took time to convince Ramnathji. I started working at his place and do odd jobs like cleaning his workplace, get tea or coffee and others. After six months, he decided to take me under his tutelage.”

Not only visitors to Navjyoti Niketan, Ram has also won the hearts of his colleagues. “Ram is not only a good driver but also an excellent artist. His works have inspired me. I help him in his sculpture work. It gives me great satisfaction when I can be of help to him even in a small way,” said Thiodar Ram, an employee of Navjyoti Niketan.

“Ramji is a good human being. He always comes forward to help people. When I saw his artwork for the first time, I was very surprised,” said Kiran, another employee.

Ram’s art has made him a popular figure and he is loving every minute of his newfound fame. “Now people have started recognising me as an artist. I am not just a driver,” he said.


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