The shop is as old as the city, that’s more than 200 years. When Maharaja Nabha settled this city, he needed the coppersmiths and asked us to move here from a nearby village, Rajgarh Wajeedpur. This street was known as ‘Maharaja Thathera Bazaar’. Now, all the families have left the profession, we are the only one hanging to it. There’s no work left now. It used to be all copper earlier, now plastic, aluminum and steel has taken its place. They are a lot cheaper and easy to maintain. If you buy a copper utensil, you’ll have to get it polished after a period but you don’t need that in steel and plastic. However, it’s healthier to use copper utensils because they don’t dissolve into your food like aluminum does leading to diseases like cancer, plastic is even worse.
I went to school till I passed my exams, when I failed I left. It was in the ninth grade I stopped studying and started working at the shop. There was no point going to a factory, the amount they pay is almost nothing. We made way more in our shop and one doesn’t feel like a servant here. Craftspeople like us who have their own businesses are like kings, no one can tell them what to do. It’s their own contentment, the extents they travel to.
\\ Every now and then a person passed and Jaswant pointed at them to tell us how good their ancestors were at making copper utensils. \\
We stopped making vessels long ago. If you want to see that, you’ll have to go to Jandiala Guru, near Amritsar or Muradabad in UP. In UP, you’ll even find people who can carve intricate designs on utensils with their hands. They even get work from foreign countries. In Punjab, our people are not ready to put that much effort. Now all we do is repair and polish the old utensils unlike my father, who would get up at four and started heating copper in the kiln, which I have barely used in my working span, till 9 in the evening.
We were 13 siblings, 11 are still alive. All the five sisters are married and well settled. It’s just me who took to this job, the other four became mechanics or steel dealers. I never ask my kids to join me at work. I don’t want them to be doing this. If I’m struggling, why would I encourage them to suffer. I’m trying to give them a good education so that they can do a decent job.
Story by: Satdeep Gill and Gurdeep Dhaliwal