He has contributed valuable 25 years of his life serving at various studios during Durga Puja in Guwahati, but still he remains a homeless happy man of the ‘industry of clay artisans’ of Assam.
He was never a vegetable vendor, nor a fish vendor at all, but the situation compelled him to do so too with lots of harassment for survival during the COVID-19 lockdown.
But his creative hands as a visiting artist still have the feel to figure the idol of goddess Durga like the years before the pandemic. Today he is happy to be back in his own world of idol making during Durga Puja.
It’s the tale of Sushil Jana, once a bare footed child who walked down to a studio and found a “guru” who encouraged him to this mystery of idol making in North Bengal five decades ago.
Sushil Jana has already past his silver jubilee year of serving this industry around Guwahati as a clay artisan, who came to Guwahati for a job but practically devoted his life working at various studios of the city and strengthened his footing as a dedicated clay artist.
“I was brought up at Kumargramduar in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal (now Alipurduar district). After the demise of my parents, my childhood shattered into pieces at our ancestral home in Midnapur district of West Bengal. And I landed up at a clay artist’s studio in Jalpaiguri. Balai Paul, a renowned artist of Alipurduar is my guru who taught and brought me to this creative world. And my childhood excelled around the four walls of the studios learning different clay art works,” said Sushil Jana, keeping his eyes focussed at work at New Ma Durga Shilpalaya at Pandu in Guwahati.
Artist Sushil Jana not only worked in various studios of renowned artisans like Ratan Paul, Shankar Paul, Nirmal Paul in Guwahati but he has worked with the clay artisans in Bhutan for two years as well.
“I do not have a home here. I have been staying at the studio where I work. And for the last 25 years these studios are my real home,” he said when asked about his presence.
With these decades of togetherness with clay artisans at Pandu, Sushil Jana feels that the studios are his real home and the family members of the residential artists/owners are his family too. The kids of the artisan’s family are his playmates in the free hours. And that’s the world of Sushil Jana, who has no connection with his ancestral family that he left decades ago.
The story of clay artist Sushil Jana, may be an exception for the people of Guwahati in today’s context ahead of Durga Puja. But if you come across the life and living of the visiting artisans across the states in India, many such names like Samar Paul, late Hari Paul and many more will come up and add to this series with the untold stories of their silent contributions as the artisans from neighbouring states who enriched the culture of idol making in Assam.