Every year, the Ganesh festival and Navratri Utsav is marked by the reverberation of various musical instruments and the dhol (drum) is the most popular of them.
However, the ‘Dholak’ making industry and traditional artisans are staring at a bleak future owing to the coronavirus pandemic this year. Hailing from remote villages near Barabanki and Amroha district in Uttar Pradesh, these dholak-sellers come to the twin-city during Holi, Ganesh-Utsav and Navratri every year to sell their homemade musical instruments.
“Our entire clan is into this ancestral business. My father taught us to make them and he was taught by his father and so on. We procure all the raw material including ropes, wooden parts and accessories from our native place and assemble them at our small makeshift home-cum-workshop in Dahisar. It takes 4 to 5 hours to make an instrument depending on size. We managed to scrape through in Holi, but during Ganesh-Utsav the sales dropped by 80 percent and going by the prevailing scenario there is also no hope for getting business during Navratri. We have dhols ranging from Rs. 150 to Rs. 4,000,” says 35-year-old dholak seller Ashraf Shaikh.
His father Sabar, however, breaks down as he shares his plight. “We kept the seasonal earnings aside to buy raw material, pay off loans and also to have some savings for the lean season. Ab hum hamare parivar ko kya khilayenge, hamare paas na paisa hai na grahak aur Sarkar to hamare liye kuch karegi nahi (How will we feed our families, neither do have money nor customers and government will do nothing for us).”
These dhol-walas are also shining examples of people spreading the message of communal harmony. Like the Shaikhs, a large number of families engaged in the traditional dhol-making profession belong to the Muslim community and the instruments they make are bought by Hindu devotees during the festival period on a large scale.
Despite the presence of synthetic and plastic made instruments in the market, people prefer traditional home-made dhol’s made by these artisans for their durability and soothing sound.