BHOPAL: The spectre of poverty was hanging over Gond artist Balmati Tekam. She lost all means to keep the wolf out of the door. And this happened because of the corona-induced lockdown.
The situation had come to such a pass that Balmati had to sell a bicycle to meet her four-year-old daughter’s demand for sweetmeats.
The artist hails from Dindori. But she has been living in a rented house in Banganga area, Bhopal, for ten years. Her family comprises her husband and two children: a six-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter. As she failed to pay the rent for four months, her landlord asked her to vacate the residence. She, then, sought help of a social worker, Pooja Iyengar.
Her paintings began to sell. Balmati earned Rs 45,000. Balmati has been working for Tribal Co-operative Marketing Development Federation of India (Trifed) and getting Rs 25,000 a year. She was getting the amount for the paintings she submitted to Trifed. Her husband worked as sanitation worker at Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), Bhopal, getting Rs 8,000 a month.
Balmati’s life went on smoothly. But the pandemic devoured their jobs. It was almost impossible for them to feather their nest. They were unable to pay house rent of Rs 3,000 a month for four months. When the landlord asked her to vacate the house, she was beside herself with sadness. Then, a ray of hope split across the cloudy sky.
She says, “We approached a social activist Pooja Madam and informed her about our problems. She first gave us rations. Then, she asked me to sell my paintings through social media. I did it.”
Iyenger says, “I was able to sell all her paintings. She got Rs 45,000. She was all smiles.”
Balmati says the social activist came as an angel for her, because she helped her when she needed it most. The artist says she paid the house rent and the debt which she had taken from her acquaintances.
She has also bought canvases and colours. “My husband and I have made 40 paintings mostly small ones on the canvas and on papers, hoping to get some more money to get out of poverty.”
Balmati says she did not get any support from the government and Trifed. During the lockdown, she gave her Aadhar card to BMC officials for rations. It came to naught, however.
Her rainy days are yet to drift away. Balmati says she’s ready to take up the challenges ahead. This is what she has done all through her life.