Dharavi’s Last Generation Of Diya Makers
Arvind Vala Kumar shapes diyas at his home in Dharavi’s Kumbharwada. (Source: BloombergQuint) 

Dharavi’s Last Generation Of Diya Makers

Vala Arvind Kumar, 50, has been making diyas for 35 years in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum. But he will be the last in his family to do this.

He doesn’t want his children to pick up the trade, and they don’t have to either. His two sons are engineers and employed. “Education was not considered important and being the only breadwinner in a family of six, I had to take up the family's pottery business,” Kumar says as he shapes clay into small lamps on his wheel. “This requires a lot of labour. It’s better if I keep them out of it.”

A potter shapes a vessel in Dharavi’s Kumbharwada. (Source: BloombergQuint)
A potter shapes a vessel in Dharavi’s Kumbharwada. (Source: BloombergQuint)

As Diwali draws near, smoke billows from kilns baking clay lamps in Dharavi’s Kumbharwada or potters’ settlement. Mostly migrants from Gujarat, they have been living in the area for about a century, making everything from earthen pots to lamps. But diya-making is a dying trade as cheaper Chinese battery-powered lamps and electric lights flood the market.

Pramila Parma, 38, says she doesn’t make much through pottery anyways. “After the cost of mud, kiln and payments to labourers, all I get is money for two meals a day.”

“I don’t want my children to learn this. My entire life has gone into it, why should I ruin theirs’?” said Parma whose two children have finished school and are looking for jobs. “If they want to study and become something, then they should.”

Pramila Parma lays out clay diyas to dry in Dharavi’s Kumbharwada. (Source: BloombergQuint)
Pramila Parma lays out clay diyas to dry in Dharavi’s Kumbharwada. (Source: BloombergQuint)
A labourer fires up a kiln to bake diyas in Dharavi’s Kumbharwada. (Source: BloombergQuint). 

Vikas Nursitank, 25, whose family has been making pottery for a century, has set an example. An MBA, he now runs coaching classes in Dharavi. “My father made enough money and gave me a good life,” he said. “But for my kids, this sum will always be less.”

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