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Sculpting adversity to his advantage

The adage "Sweet are the uses of adversity" has come true in the case of Prabhakaran Mohan, a self-taught sculptor. His wooden carvings have been selected for the "Deshiya Puraskar" at the sub-regional and regional levels and they have been sent to Delhi for selection at the national-level.

Mohan's father, Prabhakaran, had owned a timber depot in Thiruvananthapuram and their family was quite well off. Following the ban on rosewood exports during the Janata regime in 1977, the family suffered a severe financial crisis. Mohan and his three brothers learnt wooden carving from their father and assisted him in his work.

"In Thiruvananthapuram there were a number of workers but a majority of them were unskilled at that time. The few who were skilled specialised only in one product or shared the different stages in making wooden carvings. We used to sell our products in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Kairali (Kerala Handicrafts) also used to purchase our products," recalls Mohan.

After a trip to Kolkata, he started his own wooden carving business there along with another acquaintance from his home State. Despite being hard-pressed for money, he never compromised on the quality of his work. This earned him a good reputation and his business flourished. He fell in love with a Bengali girl and married her.

His business partner cheated him and he decided to leave Kolkata. He came to Vizag 20 years ago and began a new lease of life. He first worked for a Sindhi businessman for two years and later worked on his own. Lepakshi used to purchase the products and encourage him.

Mohan went to Dubai six years ago, joined a wooden furniture shop there and worked in it for four years. "The workers in Dubai were not skilled, the company used to procure designs from the Phillipines and get the carvings done. I picked up a tiff with my employers and refused to do the designs according to their directions. They were at first apprehensive but later appreciated my work and gave me a free hand."

The workers are normally not allowed to open their own sales outlets but they permitted him do so impressed by the quality of his work. The income he was getting from the sales at the outlet far exceeded his salary, which was an indication of the quality of his work, and their popularity with tourists visiting Dubai.

Mohan was going great guns and was dreaming of a bright future with his family back in Visakhapatnam. But Dame Luck refused to smile on him and two years ago, he had to give up his job in Dubai and return to Visakhapatnam as his son disappeared from home. The boy, who had suffered from depression, returned home later and was shown to a psychiatrist. He underwent treatment for some time but left home a second time, not to return again.

The sadness is reflected in Mohan's eyes as he talks of his son but he hopes that one day the prodigal would return. The only solace for him is that his two daughters, who are both studying in Junior Intermediate, have been scoring good grades all through their academic career in spite of their poor financial position.

He loves making figures of Lord Krishna. He is perturbed by the plight of elephants being chained while Lord Ganesh is worshipped. He feels that sculptors should take more interest in their work and do justice to their profession.

B.M.G.

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