Bihar labourer participates in sand art festival in spite of Rs 90k loan burden | Bhubaneswar News

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Bhubaneswar: On Sunday, when sand artist Madhurendra Kumar (26) returned home to Bijabani South village in Bihar’s East Champaran district, he carried with him a sense of satisfaction at having been able to showcase his passion at the 9th International Sand Art Festival.
Kumar’s participation was all the more significant as he has to service a debt of Rs 90,000; money he took from a local money-lender when work was hard to come by during the lockdown.
Kumar is a graduate-turned-daily labourer. His earlier attempts to get a job in the military, police and the CRPF, as well as to start a coaching centre, failed, forcing him to take up anything that comes his way.
“Getting a job in Bihar is difficult. Unemployment was the biggest issue in the recently concluded assembly elections in the state,” said Kumar, who quotes from Bhojpuri song ‘BA Karke Bakri Charawatwa’ to make light of his suffering. He sustains himself and his wife by earning around Rs 350 daily as a wage labourer.
Art has distanced Kumar from his family. Angered at how much time he was spending pursuing art, Kumar’s father, a farmer, had asked him to leave the home when he was just 13. He then worked as a labourer to sustain himself and his passion for art and went on to complete his graduation. He is still estranged from his family.
“I restarted labour work a month ago, after the pandemic eased a bit. When the invite for the festival at Chandrabhaga came, I had to make the hard choice of staying away from work for nine days. I consulted my wife. Knowing my passion, she asked me to go ahead,” said Kumar, who, like other artists, has received a token participation fee from the organisers.
In Bihar, Kumar has participated in the Buddha Mahotsav at Bodhgaya and Rajgir and the Sonepur Mela, as well as in a festival in neighbouring Nepal. He has had his photographs published in local Hindi newspapers and been felicitated by the local administration. Similar photographs of ace artist Sudarshan Patnaik had inspired him to take up sand art in 2011.
Kumar honed his skill in sand art on the banks of the Arun, a tributary of the Baghmati that flows close to his village. Earlier he would make clay images in his field. His favourite images are that of goddess Saraswati and the Buddha. “I learnt by myself. The sand of the river has silt in it, but that of the seashore is grainy, making it easier to mould images out of it,” said Kumar.
There is little appreciation for Kumar in his village, but that does not deter him. He understands that his neighbours have to toil hard to sustain themselves, and an appreciation of art is a luxury they simply cannot make time for.

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