His is one of the 35 odd homes in a scanty populated village and for those who are not well acquainted with the tricky roads in Sattari, locating it may be cumbersome. However, a household name in the locality, the gifted bamboo craft artist Premanand Satarkar is an easily accessible figure at Amarakhane, Keri. As one climbs the laterite steps to his half-constructed home, the pouring rain makes a pitter-patter sound on the tin roof underneath which lies his treasure - spread on a plastic mat are 33 replicas of real life musical instruments intricately crafted in bamboo
These are traditional musical instruments played in Goa for generations -ghumot, kasare, harmonium, drum sticks, chipli, gramophone, sarangi, pakhavaj, shankh, violin, guitar, tutari, shehnai, kasale, taal, mrudang, duff, dholake, damaru, baco, surt, tabla, madale, dhol, taso, samel, jagat, surpava, caro, tambora and satar.
Played during various festive occasions in most Goan homes, these musical instruments lay mute just like Premanand’s own body that doesn’t obey his commands. Lifting him in their arms, Premanand’s parents and neighbours help him climb the slope that leads to his home. Crippled after a bout of fever when he was two, Premanand, now 35, is unable to move freely or independently.
Squatting on the ground and resting his hands on his knees, Premanand moves with difficulty as he works on the bamboo craft. His frail body is unable to lift heavy things but his artistic skills are unmatched in the state of Goa. “It’s God’s gift,” he utters thankfully. A dropout after class seven, Premanand has never attended any art school. It was simply by trial and error method that he began to make aakash kandils (lanterns) in early 2000 to earn some money. By 2003, he was an expert in creating beautiful lanterns out of bamboo strips to illuminate during the festival of lights - Diwali.
During one of his creative bursts of energy, Premanand was then compelled to try his hands on an intricate model of ‘aakash kandil’ in bamboo. On a suggestion of an admirer of his work, he then decided to participate in a lantern making competition and was awarded first place. After this feat, there was no looking back. Encouraged by well-wishers, Premanand began participating in competitions across Goa where his lanterns fetched him awards.
“I used to earn few thousand rupees as prizes,” says Premanand, who still makes them each year. Currently, he is working on this Diwali’s special ‘aakash kandil’ but is reluctant to showcase the design as someone may copy it. “Too many bad experiences of selfish motives and vested interests have left a bitter taste in my mouth and I am weary of trusting strangers,” discloses Premanand but his poor parents are keen in promoting the talent that surpasses and surmounts his disability.
Premanand first exhibited the intricately crafted bamboo replicas of 30 musical instruments of Goan origin at the 44th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in 2013. The craft was successful to arouse curiosity among the dignitaries and delegates. But though he received a lot of appreciation, his pockets remained empty as no government aid came his way. “Art, surely, has appreciators but sadly, no takers,” he states sadly and is reluctant to discuss about his specialised skills in bamboo craft.
Apart from this Premanand also creates samayees (divli or standing lamps) out of coconut shells. But all this takes a great amount of time and patience. “I take around two weeks to two months or even more to complete one item depending on the design and size of it. The ‘aakash kandils’ need six months. Today’s children have less patience and no commitment but they are promising,” states Premanand, expressing his sincere wish to train youth from his village in his art while his parents are eager to see that the lanterns their son makes, illuminate his own life too.