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Diwali festival: Of masks and sky lanterns…

As Diwali approaches, the Pinge family gets busy in their 50-year-old family vocation of making masks and sky lanterns commercially at Merces. BHARATI PAWASKAR visits to have a chat with these creative artists

09th October 2017, 05:47 Hrs
The Indian market is flooded with numerous decorative items, small and big, cheap and expensive, allowing the consumers to make the purchases that suit their pockets. This is the time of the year, when big transactions happen in a single fortnight, beginning from Dussehra onwards till the week-long celebrations through the Diwali festival. Though Goa witnesses more fervour during the Ganesh Chaturthi, the spirit to celebrate the victory of evil over good strengthens in every Indian heart with
Diwali.
This is the season to celebrate life together. Be it clothes, jewellery, sweets, gifts, decorative lights, clay lamps, electronic goods or home utility items - the sales surge. Diwali surely is a good time for the local businesses to pocket some profits. The Pinge family from Merces in North Goa is in the business of making masks for the effigies of Narakasur and making Akash Kandils (sky lanterns).
"Ours, probably, is the only family in Goa, who makes both in bulk for commercial purpose," claims 65-year-old Laxmi Pinge, who along with her son Girish, is continuing the vocation after her late husband Gurudas Pinge.
Busy in sticking coloured paper, paper flowers and decorative designs to the steel body of the sky lanterns, Laxmi and her younger sister Kala Sawant recalls, "We used to make 500 plus sky lanterns some time ago. With escalating prices of raw material, labour and transportation, very little profit margin is left for us now," laments Laxmi, who has reduced the number of sky lanterns to 350 this year.
The Pinges outsource the steel skeletons of the lanterns and pay Rs 120 for each piece. Raw material like coloured paper, glue, strings are required. The ‘Happy Diwali' wishes and the images of gods or goddesses and other motifs are screen printed at home to save paying heavy charges to outside service providers.
Their preparations begin two months prior to Diwali and as the festival of lights approaches nearer, the entire family gets busy with even the youngest member, Chetan, contributing his bit. Girish Pinge proudly carries his father's legacy forward with the help of Ashok Mandrekar who has been working with them for over 25 years. "I used to work with late Gurudas. Now I work with his son Girish," says Ashok, 53.
A clay artist who makes around 250 Ganesh idols during Chaturthi for sale, Ashok gets engaged in mask making prior to Diwali. "We start early in the morning and work till late, as time is short," states Ashok, who makes masks of all sizes. They fetch him Rs 50-1,000 depending upon their size.
"We make hundreds of clay moulds first and then stick newsprint together to make the crude shape of the face. This has multiple layers of paper. The outer layer is of plain white paper, which is then spray painted. False hair, ornaments etc are added in the final stage," describes Trupti Pinge, who helps in the process. The Pinges also make 200 smaller Narkasur effigies while the masks are 500 odd. It's not a one-man-task and that's why neighbourhood youth are invited to help and are paid for their work. Every mask requires 10 days each and has three coats of paint. The Pinges also make 100 Christmas stars and 50 cribs in December.
The masks and lanterns are sold at their photo frames' shop in Panaji. Some are given in bulk at wholesale price. "It's a non-profit business. Raw material and labour costs have risen. But, we continue because it's our long cherished family tradition," shares Laxmi.
The burning of effigy of Narakasur is one of the major rituals in the Diwali celebrations in the State. Lots of money is spent on making of the effigy and making it dance on the streets in cities and villages. There are competitions too and the most horrifying looking effigy gets chosen as the best Narakasur, winning prizes of thousands of rupees.
Before the mask is burnt down to ashes, it earns them little cash. The Pinges feel this is the best part of their work.

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