| Karpoori and (right) Kamini at work at Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir in Patna. Pictures by Ashok Sinha |
Karpoori Devi has visited Japan nine times. The 86-year-old Madhubani painter is dependent on a pacemaker for her life but she is active in making Madhubani paintings despite her tough medical condition.
She has been instrumental in taking the traditional art of the country to foreign shores such as US, Japan and France.
On the other hand, 40-year-old Kamini Kaushal from Madhubani, who might not have got a chance to visit foreign countries but her achievements do not fall short. She has been making papier mâché products for the past 22 years.
Kaushal takes classes in some of the prominent institutions of the country, including the Indian Institute of Jewellery Designing, Mumbai.
The Telegraph spoke to the twin stars at a workshop at Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir, which was organised by art, culture and youth affairs department and the state branch of Lalit Kala Akademi. The workshop concluded on Tuesday.
The five-day workshop saw participation of hundreds of artists from Bihar, who have specialisation in different disciplines of folk art.
“My mother started teaching me Madhubani painting when I was six. That time, I didn’t even know that one day I would be able to earn money because of this skill,” said Karpoori Devi, adding that her mother taught her Madhubani painting because she wanted her daughter to acquire extra skills before she goes to her in-laws’ house.
When Karpoori was 32, a central government officer visited her village at Ranti in Madhubani around 200km northeast of Patna.
“He got in touch with my brother-in-law and visited my house. He saw my work and the works of my sister-in-law. He went to Delhi after a few days. After one-and-a-half month, he returned to my village and said he would pay me for my paintings. Nobody at my home knew about this, nor did I tell anybody in the village. I started selling my Madhubani designs on a paper to that officer discreetly because I knew male members in my family would not allow me to do the work,” she said.
Karpoori added that in lieu of her bigger designs, the officer used to pay her Rs 8 and for smaller ones, he paid Rs 5.
“My family got to know about all this a year later. They were furious at me. But later I acquainted them that my paintings helped me become financially independent. They understood and allowed me to carry on. The officer started a centre at my village, where women, including me, used to make Madhubani paintings. The officer also gave me chance to participate in exhibitions organised in different places of the country,” she said.
Delegates from Japan were so impressed after seeing her work that they took her to Japan nine times. “People respect me in Japan. I have gone there nine times. I have also visited US and France for my work,” said the painter.
On the other hand, Kamini Kaushal, who has specialisation in making papier mâché products said she had not got the chance to travel abroad like Karpoori but she is very satisfied with her contributions in promoting the art.
She said: “Every year, I visit Indian Institute of Jewellery Designing, Sophia College in Mumbai and American School of Bombay to take classes. I feel proud in extending my knowledge to the students. I feel this is my achievement.”