People of Kolkata eagerly look forward to the months of December and January when Kolkata turns into a ‘Movable Feast’. This year the pandemic has stalled all festivities but the year end festive spirit remains indomitable. A vivid testament to this is the footfall at rural and handicrafts fair Saras Mela 2020-2021.
Held at New Town Mela ground, the fair started from 23rd December and will continue till 2nd December. The timings are from 12pm to 7pm and the fair showcases a plethora of products starting from jewelry, to handmade décor items straight out ateliers. During the pandemic, undoubtedly artisans have suffered. With no products to sell the rural self help groups and artisans have suffered financial losses and faced unavailability of raw materials. This fair is their chance to make some quick business
Braving the pandemic the participants of Saras Mela, particularly those at the Food Park did their duty by wearing PPE Kits and gloves. Social distancing was ensured and all the guidelines were maintained. Jhuma Pal and Sipra Mondal who had sweets stall at the Saras Mela Food Park say they are happy to be back at the food park since this has given them a hope of survival. “During the pandemic we could not move out. Our hometown is at Madhyamgram, which is a Covid affected area with all shops closed. With zero income it was difficult for us to survive, hence, this Mela is a ray of hope,” says the duo.
Suchitra Mondal who has come all the way from South 24 Parganas was skeptical about this year’s sales. Last year at the Eco Park ground, Suchitra had her stall at the Hasta Shilpa Mela, where she clocked a good profit margin. But this year Suchitra was apprehensive, “I was not able to apprehend the response. But as I was putting up the stall here, I saw people coming and the response has been good. I think people are coming out now as they have accepted the new normal and that is a good thing for us, as we can finally sell our products,” enthuses Suchitra who owns a jute stall at the fair.
West Bengal Comprehensive Area Development Corporation sold varieties of food at the Food Park which gave customers a taste of Indo Continental dishes! With delicious lamb kosha, duck kosha and prawn curry customers couldn’t give this stall a miss while passing by.
“Our stall has different cuisines which are prepared in the most organic vermicompost way. We invite women from different self help groups to help us to prepare food. We participate in food parks every year and the response has been exciting. We also take orders from our Salt Lake office. At present we are taking all possible measures to provide healthy and clean food at an affordable price for everyone,” says the stall manager.
The Saras Mela has over 240 stalls from in and out of Bengal which includes handicrafts and food. The fairs are a good platform for these rural people to showcase their traditional handmade products. The urban crowds love to flock these places to get a taste of the rural crafts. Also, not just from Bengal, the fair brings together people from places such as Darjelling, Jammu and Kashmir etc.
Tariq Ahmed Sufi along with his wife Shehnaaz has been coming to fairs in Kolkata for more than 16 years. From the Mega Trade Fair to the Saras Mela, coming here is always an incredible experience for them.
“During the pandemic, we had no sale and there was nobody to buy our products,” says Sufi who has a variety of Kashmiri shawls, gorgeous Pashminas and Kashmiri dresses, all of which are hand-woven and homemade. “The Mela will increase our sales and our products will finally reach out to people. We have taken all protection such as wearing masks, giving sanitizers to every customer once they enter the shop. People of Kolkata love our products and this is why we keep coming back here,” declares Sufi with a smile.
This year the Saras Mela has not just been a platform for showcasing rural products, art and craft and food but has provided people with new opportunities by giving them a ray of hope and scope of survival in the midst of the pandemic.