This Pondicherry government teacher is the master of waste paper – The New Indian Express
Express press service
PUDUCHERRY: Hurry up. Gather some of your best sculptures and rush to the airport,” a voice on the other end swelled with urgency. Just outside his school, A Krishna rubbed his eyes and looked at the phone again. This is Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, the blue screen flashed.
The 47-year-old public school art teacher listened to the phone again to figure out what was going on. “Come to the airport, madam is on her way to Delhi. She wants to offer your sculptures to dignitaries there,” the call ended there.
It was not the first time that the Lieutenant-Governor of Pondicherry asked him for sculptures in “old paper”. Although arrangements were made to offer Krishna handcrafted memorabilia to VIPs including Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a youth festival held in the union territory in February this year, Covid-19 threw a damp blanket over the event.
Two months had passed, and now she was asking for them again. Krishna had to rush home and collect all the carvings he could get his hands on, then drive to the airport, nearly half an hour away. In front of Pondicherry airport, Soundararajan was patiently waiting for the sculptor. When he came huffing and puffing, she received the items from him with a smile.
Krishna was first attracted to crumpled old paper nearly 15 years ago. He developed a technique for making masks with them, and later, under the guidance of his guru and artist, Anbazhagan, he honed his skills and began making sculptures.
“My artist friends and I had formed an organization ‘Puthiya Thoorigai’ to organize summer camps for children in rural areas. During one of these camps, I used to make masks using old crushed papers and balloons. It was then that my guru suggested that I start making sculptures with paper. For the first time, I created a human figure, which earned me a lot of praise from the from my guru,” says Krishna.
Krishna trained many children in public schools and colleges in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the technique. Inmates of the central prison of Pondicherry are also now adept at sculpting with old paper.
At first, Krishna used to paint his sculptures with different colors. But when he heard people call his works toys, he started experimenting with paints, and eventually focused on metallic colors, giving the paper sculptures an antique look. Although he began by making busts, he later honed his skills and began making models of gods and performing folk artists.
Once he was stopped at the Kerala checkpoint because the staff stationed there thought he was carrying ancient carvings, Krishna says. “I was then taken to the highest official at the checkpoint, and I was interrogated. When I felt they didn’t believe me, I had to rip one of the carvings off. Although they were all surprised at first, they rented my works and walked me back to the bus,” he recalls.
Although the artist claims that paper carving is simple, it’s not as easy as it looks. After looking at the photograph of the model he plans to make, Krishna draws a skeleton base using bamboo sticks and stuffs pieces of crushed paper into it using glue. Once the sculpture is ready, he applies a coat of normal paint before giving it a gold metallic look. The artist claims that his sculptures can last around 10 years if kept away from water or other liquids.
S Sasikaran, a class 12 student at Indra Gandhi Government Higher Secondary School in Pondicherry, where Krishna works, says the teacher taught him a valuable lesson – even rubbish has value.
When Tamilisai’s flight took to the skies that day with her carvings, Krishna wondered when he would hear from her again.
It was pretty quick, and the humble artist was pleasantly shocked the very next day. Photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Interior Minister Amit Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman happily holding his sculptures flooded his phone. He grinned from ear to ear and reveled in triumph for a moment before his family jumped on him with hugs, their eyes shining with pride. While we throw away all our used papers like trash, here is a man who teaches us that they are anything but.