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“So, where are you from?”
“What does your father do?”
“He is a professor with the Edathua College, his name is Jim Jacob.”
Mr. Jacob smiled at my friend James. He has known my friend’s father (Jim Jacob) for
quite some time. They were members of the Edathua Lion’s Club and knew each other quite
well through the club meetings and functions.
While all this was being conversed in Malayalam, I was busy taking the pictures of the
statues kept neatly on the showcases, and tried to figure out what they were talking
about through their facial expressions. Kerala’s social life is quite different from
what we have in most part of the country. There is a new town every 10 kilometres on a
drive past the local canals and muddy fields. You are sure to have acquaintances or even
friends in the next town who meet every week maybe at a common church or for one of the
numerous festivals of Kerala.
St. Thomas Fine Arts is situated in Chapakulam, near the St. Mary’s Church which is one
of the oldest churches in India. The 90 years old workshop is headed by a man named
K.K. Chacko who is also the grandfather of Jacob. There are four especially skilled
workers who are trained to perfection in their art. Years of experience and practice go
behind every stroke made by their uli (pointed tool) which is stuck gently by a hammer
from the top.
After having spent some time at the church, we were guided by our generous houseboat
guide to this place. A small corridor entrance that leads you to the workshop surely
gives an out odd eerie impression on the mind but it’s all worth at the end when you
are exposed to the artistic brilliance inside. We were greeted by Mr. Chacko who was
very kind in taking us with him for a tour of the place, explaining every bit of the
long processes involved throughout the workshop area.
Many of the churches in Kerala & Tamil Nadu give contracts to St. Thomas Fine Arts for
sculpting big and small statues of Mother Mary & Jesus Christ. Every project has a
cardboard prototype with sections divided for their convenience. On the actual statue,
these are in turn dealt with some seriously focussed hours of soft hammering, according
to the prototype.
Apart from this, there is a small showroom that exhibits a number of hand crafted
articles based on Lord Ganesha, Lord Krishna, Elephants, Boats and many other things
which are an integral part of Kerala – God’s Own Country. The showroom attracts mainly
the foreigners during the tourist season and the prices shoot high during those days.
The fine arts shop has got its own importance in the area. No doubt why Jacob returned
back to help his grandfather take forward the century old business after 6 long years,
having left at the age of 16 for higher studies.
It’s always intriguing to learn something about the heritage artistic skills which are
inherited from our ancestors over centuries. It’s an altogether awe-inspiring experience
to see how Gods are made in God’s Own Country.