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A storehouse of information: Surajkund International Crafts Mela
The sounds of laughter reverberated at the Surajkund International Crafts Mela at Natyashala, the open air theatre, on Thursday evening, which was packed to a capacity audience for the Hasya Kavi Sammelan. Led by ace satirist Surender Sharma, a team of poets included Mahendar Ajnabi, Ved Prakash, Yusuf Bhardwaj and Ritu Goyal, who took the stage to create many ‘laugh-till-you-drop’ moments.

Their witty, intelligent and satirical wisecracks came with an underlying message and were highly applauded by the audience. The issues these seasoned poets touched upon in their recitations are relevant to the present times, which included topics like food adulteration, national integration, growing stress and breaking of joint families et al.

In an endeavour to provide direct marketing opportunities and exposure to rural artisans/Self Help Groups (SHGs), the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has sponsored 35 stalls in the Mela. Since last four years, NABARD’s Haryana office has been associated with Surajkund International Crafts Mela.

Through this initiative, around 150 artisans have got exposure to marketing skills and improved their product designs based on the feedback received from the buyers. The sales turnover (including bulk orders) by the participating artisans was in the range of Rs 25 lakh – Rs 50 lakh.

“Encouraged by the overwhelming response from visitors and participants, NABARD, Haryana has participated in a big way this year by sponsoring 35 stalls in the Mela with a grant support of Rs 40 lakh,” tells a NABARD spokesperson.

Dr. H.K. Bhanwala, Chairman, NABARD visited the Surajkund International Crafts Mela on Friday and encouraged the artisans to bring in more innovations in their products to cope up with the changing preferences of the people. He also shared that NABARD has been facilitating capacity building of artisans by way of grant assistance to different NGOs and other agencies.

He also revealed that with a view to provide sustainable marketing platform for products/artefacts produced by the rural artisans, NABARD is also planning to develop an online e-commerce portal.

Artisans/ craftspersons from 22 states across India are participating in the Surajkund International Crafts Mela which symbolises unity in diversity. Products on display are from about 70 rural artisans/SHG members, some of them are also National/State Awardees.

The products being showcased by them include appliqué work, wooden inlay paintings, wood carvings, glass toys, terracotta, cane furniture,  leather works, 'Kantha stitch' (a West Bengal thread work product), 'Phulkari' (traditional Punjabi embroidery), jute products, herbal products, 'Manjusha' art (Bihar-based folk painting), bamboo products and handloom items, etc.

The Surajkund International Crafts Mela is also an ideal platform for spreading information. Haryana State AIDS Control Society, in association with HLL Lifecare Limited, have set up a stall and are conducting free HIV/AIDS screening test and providing report in matter of few minutes.

To spearhead the mission of controlling AIDS, different ways have been introduced, including a mascot giving information in conversation with another character, games and a play – revolving around the topic of the dreaded disease.

Tourism Boards of Delhi, Goa, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh have set up their stalls at the Mela and are offering information to visitors on various sight-seeing options at these destinations. So people can collect brochures and gather relevant facts about one of these beautiful places worth a visit.

In the evening, eminent actor Mita Vashisht performed an evocative play ‘Lalded’. The one-act play brought a theatrical collage of poems, songs, thoughts and philosophy of the medieval poetess Lal Ded from Kashmir. The National School of Drama (NSD) product Mita’s solo performance delved into the life of this mystic poet. Everything about Lalded - her life, poems, challenged dogmas and ossified perceptions was encapsulated in the play.

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