My name is Mayna Chitrakar. I was born in Naya. Jamuna Chitrakar is my mother. I have never seen my father Muhammad Chitrakar or called him father. I didn’t have a father from a very young age. My mother brought up the three of her children with great hardship. She arranged my marriage in Naya village. She used to sell bangles, ribbons, lac dye, and vermillion in the villages. She also used to sell clay dolls and showed scrolls to the villagers to earn. We grew up, nurtured by her from her small income. She really struggled to bring us up. When I was old enough I asked to go to school. My mother told me that since our father had abandoned her, how could she afford to send us to school in her present condition? She proposed an alternative. She would buy us some goats and we could start earning from them to augment the family income. Then I learned to paint from my mother. I started painting when I was seven and sang a little.

When I grew older, I asked my mother to admit me to the village school. After I cried and cried she let me. I studied until class two. Then, when I was twelve, she arranged my marriage in Nandigram. I went away to my marital home. I saw that my father-in-law had a large family of five sons and a daughter. My mother and law had died and my father-in-law didn’t stay in Nandigram. My husband was the eldest but all the brothers lived separately. They didn’t have any land. I suffered there too and had to go begging. I used to show scrolls and sing and earn some money and rice and somehow manage. I suggested we go to my mother in Naya. We would learn scroll painting and signing. I could do it already. I would teach him and we would start to paint at home and go wherever we were called. We could earn good money.

Now I have two sons. After they were born I explained to my husband that we shouldn’t have any more children. How could we bring them up? I had seen my elder sister have a lot of children that she couldn’t provide for. They didn’t have clothes. She couldn’t send them to school for lack of funds. She didn’t even have the money to buy simple medicine when they were sick. I don’t want any more children because I can see the problems. My husband can sing and paint well. So do I. I went to Australia once. I have received prizes from Rabindra Bharati, from my own state. We had a training center in Baroa where I used to teach the trainees. I have also helped to spread awareness about the dangers of pulse polio, malaria, and diarrhea by painting and displaying scrolls in villages. There Is a training center in Naya now. I have got a chance there. I will teach scroll work there. The local Muslims tell us that since this our profession and we earn from it, that we should do this well so we can maintain ourselves. They say, “when you are becoming famous for this art, why should you have to give it up?” Nobody in our society or the Hindus look down on us anymore.


Scrolls by Mayna