Everyday we lie on our beds, relaxed, with no knowledge of how those cosy things in our house are made, and whose strenuous efforts are involved in making such comfy and restful pieces of art. The bed and pillows we use for comforting ourselves require arduous manual work.
A potter gets his name for his pots, a painter for the paintings, but mattress or quilt makers, never get a name for their work of art. They’re the most unacquainted artisans.
One such unrecognised and non appreciated artisan is Mohammad Nayeem, a 55-year-old man, who works as a mattress and quilt making craftsman in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. He calls himself, “An army of one man and a few equipments”. Carrying his cleaning equipment, some cloth, a needle, a ball of thread and his buzzer. He leaves home at 7’o clock each morning on his bicycle, looking for work in different residential areas, all over the city.
Hearing the sound of his buzzer, people call him to their homes and ask him to make new mattresses and pillows from the old ones. It’s a time taking process and one needs patience to get work done efficiently. The most complicated is the cleaning and refining (aka ‘pilai’ or ‘dhunai’) of the cotton before refilling it to form the new quilts/mattresses. The work depends on the type of cotton being used and knitting gets complicated if synthetic cotton fibre is used. Once the refining, stuffing and knitting is done, they’ve to beat the quilts with a heavy stick to level it up.
From mattresses, sofas, pillow to cushions, quilts and blankets, he makes every comforting thing that we need at home. Mohammad says, “It feels good to see that people still prefer traditionally handmade mattresses rather than the manufactured at factory ones. They have helped us to keep our art still alive.” He got to learn making mattresses from his grandfather, who was in the same profession. Although, his father used to work in the service sector and expected him to do the same, Mohammad wasn’t willing to work under control of someone and take orders, he wanted to keep working on what he had loved and known since his childhood. He has been working as a mattress maker for more than 30 years now. Even though the income is unstable, Mohammad’s dedication for his work makes it easy to be atisfied with the hard earned money.
He hails from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, where his wife and his mother along with their four children reside. He only gets to visit his family after every 3-4 months. He lives in a rented room with his friend of the same profession, in Ram Nagar in Raipur. He misses his family and says that living alone isn’t easy, but Allah gives him strength. Every afternoon, while returning home he visits Masjid and thanks Allah for his blessings and wishes for the well being of his family.
Mohammad believes he is an artist, he says “People may not recognize our work, but mattress making is an art, and it needs proper training and dedication to be a real artist”. It’s ironic how the most snugging and comforting things exist at the cost of the herculean and painstaking work of craftsmen like Mohammad Nayeem