GUWAHATI: A school drop-out has become the symbol of communal harmony in Darrang and Udalguri districts. Hasem Ali, a resident of Dalgaon in Darrang district who couldn’t continue his school due to poverty, has emerged to be one of the sought after artistes to make idols during Durga puja.

A devout Muslim, Ali has been making idols and designing puja pandals for the last several years.

“Hasem da (Ali) has been appreciated by everybody for his skill to draw idols and cut out the figures. We are impressed by his eagerness to work. When a Muslim is dedicatedly involved in the idol making process, this itself sends a strong message. Thus he has become like a symbol of communal harmony in our locality,” Mrinal Dev Sarma, a fellow artiste, told The Citizen.

Though never trained formally, Ali has learnt writing in signboards and making idols by watching others do that. And for Ali, he is satisfied and happy when people appreciate his works.

“I think it’s a gift of God. I’m an artiste and for me all the religion is same though people call it with different names. I feel good when people appreciate my work. It’s even more satisfying when I’m regarded as a symbol of communal harmony. I can’t ask for more,” Ali told The Citizen over phone from his residence just after offering his evening Namaz.

He gave credit to Kalumoni Dey, a local artiste, from whom he learnt this craft. “I never had the formal training. I used to stand beside Kalumoni da and watched him do the painting. Gradually, I tried my hand and he was impressed seeing me grew in confidence and doing a good job. I owe everything to him,” Ali adds.

It was in 2016, when he attempted to make the figures of Ravana during the Raas Festival at Kharupetia. He was encouraged to do it to when he received appreciation from the spectators and organizers.

“During the puja next year, I was watching my co artistes cutting out figures of gods and goddesses. I was little reluctant thinking that people from my community might make it an issue. But with the words of encouragement from my co workers I tried and it came out nicely. That’s the beginning. Thankfully no one told me anything negative,” Ali added.

He said, everybody, had a word of encouragement for him and which motivates him to continue doing the work.

Dipankar Rai Choudhury, puja committee member of Dalgaon Yuva Samaj, said that it’s a great atmosphere during puja where they never regard religion as a barrier.

“I know Ali and his works. It’s a great message how we people live here in harmony. He is just an artiste and we all celebrate Durga puja with great fanfare,” Choudhury told The Citizen.