Our family has been making musical instruments from hundred and fifty years. I was fifteen when I got into this, it has been thirty-three years now. Our business almost came to a standstill before 1984 but after ’84 it became alive with a wave of new young singers. People moved on from Tumbi to more diverse traditional instruments with time. I learnt the art of making musical instruments from my father, but my maternal family of carpenters was also my inspiration.
Families of both of my parents were well acquainted with Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s family. Before the riots of 1947, our family moved to Banga and then settled in Khatkar Kalan. My ancestors used to make ploughs, yokes and other agricultural tools. They also fixed vehicles, they did this work for Bhagat Singh’s family too. My grandfather was a multi-talented man, he made houses and furniture too, these two professions are still there in our family. Apart from this he was a good singer and made excellent sarangis.
My father followed him, and I started making instruments after my father, but my children have not followed me. The elder son works as a car mechanic and the other one is still studying, he’s a bit inclined to this craft. I wish he at least learns the craft, even if he doesn’t want to carry it on. No one can steal your skill, if you have one you’ll always have a means to earn your own bread.
Mostly we make sarangi, algoza pipes, rabab, taus and other string instruments, they are all equally popular among the customers. We sell more to foreign customers than the locals. England, Canada, America, Italy, France, Japan, Switzerland and Pakistan are the destinations we sell the most. The demand is so high that we can’t meet it with the labour and means we have right now. Once, a Gurudwara from Pakistan availed our services. They have to travel to India via England to collect their order because we can’t deal with Pakistan directly.
The large fraction of our customers is the Punjabi immigrant population, very few of them are foreigners. Once a Swiss man bought a sarangi from me and he asked me to make it a three feet long whereas it’s two and half normally. A Dilruba costs rupees 12,000, a violin is 15,000-20,000, Taus is 30,000 and Dotara is 5,000. We use Tun wood, its water and heat resistant and we can get it locally but if we need it in bulk we have to travel to the mountains. Our mission is to satisfy the needs of every customer that visits the shop. I know how to tune the musical instruments, but I can’t play any.
Story & Photos: Aman Deep
Translation (Eng): Gurdeep Dhaliwal