My grandfather was a contractor during the British rule. He was an expert in working carpentry and masonry. Impressed by his work, in 1933 they gifted him a pocket watch made by Western Watch Company. Around 1970, he passed it on to me. I still possess it and it is in working condition. My father worked as a carpenter for General Electrics in Pune. I spent my first 10 years in Pune. I studied till 12th and after that went to Muscat as a carpenter for a company there. Most of my friends in Muscat were from the electrical department of the company. So my interest got shifted from carpentry to electrical. My brother was pursuing a Degree in Electrical Engineering from a college in Jalandhar, on my return we opened a shop together. Now he’s abroad and I run the shop.
I’m not just an electrician, I’m an artist too. The local schools and colleges regularly run exhibitions of my paintings. I also make models for educational purposes depicting scientific inventions and cultural aspects of Punjab. Air Force School in Adampur has hired me to give arts and crafts classes to students. But the neglect of craftsmanship by the government makes me sad. There’s no good institution or gallery in Punjab. I’ve written to BBC, Holland Radio, Slade School of Arts in London and many more about my work, and they all replied, applauding my work. My name is registered in 2001 Limca book of records for making a miniature working iron, jack plane and lamp. I got all this praise from abroad but when I tried to apply for a national award given to craftsman of India, it was no less than a nightmare. No official helped me, they just kept asking me to go here or there without any lead. In the end, I just gave up. I still got the receipts of all the people I met or the calls I made.
I couldn’t find an art gallery or a space to exhibit my craft. So I wish to create such a gallery where I can display my work and educate the kids. I’m interested in arts from Childhood. I have a large collection of coins and postal tickets dating back to the nineteenth century, old cameras and projectors. But they are all useless till they get a space to be exhibited and shared with the world. I wish, somebody steps forward in my help, let it be a government or a private body.
Story and Text by: Gurdeep Dhaliwal