“There was a time when Kodambakkam was the hub of terracotta makers. We used to make all the items here and ship it all over India. But then with urbanisation, this area started to become residential and a lot of people started occupying these houses. So they brought up a lot of concerns regarding pollution and now, the hub is shifted to the outskirts of Chennai, namely ECR. This business in my family has been passed down to me from my grandfather who had a large flourishing business here.
So when the hub moved to ECR, we were forced to change with the times. Currently, my shops sources these pots and utensils from these makers and sell them at a small profit margin. I sometimes source good pots from other parts of India like Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. But adding in transportation and other transit charges, the cost price undergoes a drastic shift and I’m unable to sell it with any margin. People bargain mercilessly with me and ask me half of the cost price.
In the recent days, we see that people have shifted to terracotta cooking utensils right down to the stove which uses biogas. Myself and my father have earned a trustworthy name in our clientele group for the quality assurance and the reasonability of the prices. But I still wish, we had more help from the government. Since Kodambakkam is a main area, we often have minister brigades make their way through these roads. We often witness our chief minister too pass through these roads. Here is where I wish that the government helped us make an alternative livelihood by giving us skill development training and help us improve our lives.
As we know, the world today is moving towards better living through education. So in that regard, this art is largely diminishing. The makers of terracotta pots who have been in this business for more than a decade don’t have heirs who will take it up and continue the lineage. Their grandchildren take up education and get into good jobs so there is a dire need for good potters who will continue this profession. And this is where, the people have to help us. Where there is a demand, there would be sales. I wish everyone would understand this important factor and try and switch to organic materials like terracotta not only for providing our a livelihood but also ensuring that they live a life aligned with nature.”