Bimal Pradhan

Ilam, March 14:

Sri Prasad Lakandri, a resident of Laxmipur-2, Ilam depends on creating wooden utensils, traditionally his family’s profession, as the sole source of income. Though business is not good, he wants to keep on doing it just for the sake of family tradition. The kinds of the timber including Dar and Khamari that are best wood for utensils, are not that easily available nowadays, he rues. Utensils including Duneri (pot used to collect milk) and Theki (used to churn curd) are made of wood. Workers are traditionally known as Chundares. These workers inform that wooden utensils are being increasingly used as decorative pieces rather than as practical utility pots.

Chundares say the tree species of Dar, Khamari and Malagiri that were in abundance till a few years ago, are almost impossible to find now. The available ones are so young that they are as good as useless. It takes months to complete wooden wares after fetching the right kind of timber from a walking distance of about a week. Lakandri visits village after village searching for work. He says he has also worked in villages of the districts of Panchthar and Taplejung. He says, “It is not possible to run the business for long from a same place. We have to roam around”. Lakandri says, he can have good business in villages of districts rather than in Ilam. He says raw material is also easy to get elsewhere and that locals are still using traditional utensils for daily purposes.

Chundares say their products are expensive because the work required is hard labour. The utensils can cost from Rs 200 to Rs 2,000, considering the quality of raw material used and their shapes and sizes. Utensils are made with the help of a simple machine with chisel and run with the power of flowing water. Workers said life is also risky because they have to stay in temporary shelters on the bank rivers or rivulets.