Brass Pots and Mammoth Temples
Monday, March 6, 2017
This morning, our cruise along India’s Ganges River with G Adventures anchored just off the small brassworking village of Matiari. Like most of the other villages we’ve visited, my attempts to further my research have been futile. Type “Matiari” into Google, and you get Matiari, Pakistan. Adding “India” to it at least brings up a map, and several links with almost no information on them at all.
In other words, I can’t sound all smart by rattling off facts and figures about Matiari. So I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you about another adventure we were treated to this morning – and more adventures that were to come in our afternoon.
Once again, I started my morning out on the Varuna’s Sun Deck, where I enjoyed a cup of coffee and watched as we began sailing from our overnight anchorage downstream to Matiari. The reddish haze from the pollution that blankets this area of India makes it possible to stare straight into the amber ball that is the sun as it comes up over the horizon.
After breakfast, we set out to explore Matiari. This is an industrial place, and its crumbling colonial architecture hints at a past wealth that seems to escape the town now. Not that Matiari is unprofitable: brass is big business here, with vendors and manufacturers lined up along the narrow, winding streets.
There’s also evidence that the government is paying attention to Matiari. A small water tap has been installed along the city’s main drag, dispensing clean water for four hours per day. There is no spigot, so the water runs freely onto the ground. When asked why there was no spigot, our guide responded that someone would likely steal the spigot, prying it free of its mounting so that it could be melted down into something else. Or sold.
After a brisk walk through the town, we’d arrived at our first brassworking factory. Here, workers clad in sandals (and sometimes barefoot) work with molten-hot brass, moulding it into its proper form, and then pounding it into shape.
Although out on the open, the temperature inside this workship is stifling. The heat comes in waves, and a thin layer of perspiration quickly formed over our group as the men worked. Health and Safety regulations here are apparently nonexistent. I had to wonder how many people have dropped a glob of molten brass on their feet, or touched a hot pot. A glob of molten brass to the foot would be a death sentence, if not a full-fledged amputation. And yet, the entire system works like a charm, with skilled (they have to be, really) workers going about their jobs as you or I might go about doing the dishes.
Once again, I absolutely adored the locals, who followed us around as we visited one brass factory after another. We even took a stroll through the local market, which wasn’t selling brass at all, but rather children’s backpacks.