Here’s some of what the Flamingo Tours information sheet told us about our visit to see the Luhar family, master bell-makers:
“The Luhars, in Nirona, have been preserving the craft of making copper bells over seven generations. From the 65-year-old head of the family, Luhar Husen Sidhik, to his 18-year-old grandson, Faruk, the Luhars are passionately taking the art forward.
Faruk who is pursuing his college education is keen on giving a new spin to the art. As a result, you can see some heart-shaped wind chimes, a xylophone made of bells and even a few fauna inspired bell pieces.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
After visiting the Rogan Art family in Nirona, our driver took us to another family home to see bells being made by hand in an age-old fashion. As we pulled up to the house, I took a couple of photos of the street outside. It’s amazing how bright blue paint spruces up an otherwise drab concrete compound gate. Nearby, someone had used a conveniently-placed power pole as a support for storing much-needed firewood.
We were welcomed into the Muslim home, and introduced to the grandfather of the family. He learned bell-making from his father and has passed the art down to his son and grandson in turn. We made ourselves comfortable and watched him as he quickly turned some odd-shaped pieces of metal into a bell that miraculously rang with such a sweet little tone.
The man sat on the edge of the cement floor, with a section of dirt floor in front of him. He had his various tools spread around him, all within easy reach. The dirt floor was practical because he could pound a metal piece into the ground so that it served as an anvil of sorts. It was amazing to watch him as he shaped the different pieces required to produce the bell with a little wooden hammer hanging in the centre. At times he used his feet and his toes to hold things in place as he hammered away.
I love the photo I captured of him holding the finished product. The smile says it all, ‘I’m very proud of the work I do’. His son, who speaks English, explained that bells can be made in an amazing range of sizes, and can even be tuned carefully so that a bell can have a particular tone. He explained that farmers often want a number of bells, each with their own sound, so that when they are searching for their cattle in forested areas, they can identify the individual cow or bullock by the tone of the bell.
I didn’t expect to purchase one of the bells, as wonderful as they were. However, when the upturned a large bag of small bells onto a table, each with a colourful, mirrorwork-decorated cloth hangar attached, I quickly changed my mind. None of them jumped out at me at first, though I thought the one with red and green embroidery might be nice to display at Christmas time.
Just then, my sister spotted an unusual one, done in just the colours that would suit the décor in my living room. I was delighted, because that meant that it could be displayed throughout the year, and when I placed it near the dining table, I could ring it to call guests to dinner.
When I was writing this journal entry, I thought about how much better it is if you can see how the bell is made, and what great techniques the grandfather used to fashion the bell and all its various parts. To my surprise, I was able to find a video taken of the same man making the bell. There were others online, but this was our experience, and it will always take me right back to Nirona, Gujarat when I see it: