Telkoi: Inside an asbestos roofed and mud walled house at a nondescript village, a man with all grey hair and a loin cloth tied around his waist could be seen focused on his work – tightening the leather strands attached to percussion instruments.
He is 75 years old Nayan Das, a master maker of percussion instruments such as ‘mrudanga’, ‘marddala’, ‘tabla’ and ‘dhol’ among others.
Though Das lives in Makapada village under Sirigida panchayat of Telkoi block in Keonjhar district, a rather enviable address that lies inside forest with near non-existent roads, his popularity and skills draw him visitors from different parts of Keonjhar, Angul, Dhenkanal, Deogarh and Mayurbhanj districts who come to buy percussions from him.
While talking to us, Nayan says he was only a child when he first got attracted towards repairing instruments, particularly percussions. And later he found he was so involved in it that it became his profession as well.
“I always receive orders from ISCKON temple in Bhubaneswar for ‘mrudanga’ and ‘marddala’. They send some of these instruments to abroad as well,” he says while pulling and tightening the leather strands tied to one end of a ‘mrudanga’. ISCKON apart, the nearby ‘sankirtan’ groups are his loyal customers, he proudly informs.
“If I am earning my livelihood from making instruments, and people from different parts of the state are coming to me in spite of the fact that the village does not have a good road, it is only because of my honesty and dedication to my work. I try my best not to give my customers a reason to complain,” he adds.
Nayan, who has studied up to class-VII, says during his time there used to be no school in his village and he had to go a nearby village for schooling. His family comprises of two sons, two daughters-in-laws and grandchildren. “However, my sons are not interested to carry forward my profession. And it is because the government is doing nothing for artisans like us. That said, I am determined to keep my profession alive till my last breath,” he concludes.
Nayan is also known for another reason. He has never ever worn footwear. Wherever he goes, he goes barefoot suggesting his simple sagely lifestyle and determination towards his own sets of rules of life.