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Care for Some Water from the Earth

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By Shailaja Tripathi

Earthen water bottles made by potters in Uttar Pradesh are slowly replacing plastic bottles in Bengaluru, all thanks to Abhishek Saran
A lot of us grew up drinking water from earthen pots. A sip from these pots was infinitely refreshing. Not to forget how amazing the water tasted. Then we switched to refrigerators and plastic bottles. In the last few years, as we learnt the truth about plastic, a few set out to look for options.
Neer Patra is one such. They are one litre clay bottles made by potters in Uttar Pradesh and sold in Bengaluru by Abhishek Saran’s NGO REWA (Raise Empower Women Around). It was during a visit to Purulia in West Bengal when Abhishek saw potters making vases, that he envisioned clay water bottles. He got them to do a few but didn’t get a finished product. “I returned to Bangalore and went to the potters’ market here, but the design, the finish I was looking for was missing. I then went to a village in Uttar Pradesh and identified a few potters who made it just the way I wanted it. The clay was also perfect,” says Saran, who also runs a PR agency.
Neer Patra will complete one year in June 2017 and till now he has sold more than 1000 bottles in the city. “Most of them through word of mouth. Wipro bought bottles from us. There are some eco-friendly apartments in the city and they approached us after learning about us,” says Saran.
The bottles are simply and aesthetically designed. There is a lid covering its mouth and the bottle bear REWA logo. “The latest product is even more finished. The bottles are more shapely and the lid is also better. With time, the potters have perfected the design. But it is not easy to make because as against a matka or a pot which you shape from inside, in this case, you can’t put the hand inside. So it’s tough to bring out a good shape,” explains Saran.
Sixty per cent of the profit goes to the potters who not only make them but also package it. Post that REWA’s staff there transports them to Bengaluru in trains. “The cost of breakage, faulty products is borne by us. And we are incurring huge losses but I believe by the time we complete this year, we will start selling 500 bottles every month. Not only people have buying capacity in the city, people here are also quite concerned about environment and health. They know how chemicals leech out of plastics,” elaborates Abhishek, who plans to aggressively market the product this year. Participation in fairs, putting up stalls in apartment complexes and selling through retailers is on the anvil.
Back to empowering the potters’ especially women, Saran says, he has noticed a change in the standard of living of the artisans they are working with. “It is a tough job. If a matka takes five minutes, the bottles take 10 minutes to make. And it dries depending on sun light and weather conditions. Like right now, due to the cold, it is taking very long to dry. The toughest of it all, cleaning the mud, is done by womenfolk in the family. But transportation and logistics are taking a toll on us and we will at one point of time, have to identify potters closer. That doesn’t mean we will stop working with the potters in Uttar Pradesh. They are our valued craftsmen and we will engage with them on a different project.”
(To buy these bottles, contact Abhishek Saran at 9535046900 or visitwww.rewasaran.com)
(Source: The Hindu)