Puthenveetil Lonan Joseph doesn't mind the scorching sun above his head or his footing on hot soil. Wearing a cap, a check shirt and lungi, he is busy bending the unyielding iron rod and creating mould in cement for a new sculpture at the Matha Welding Material Agency, at Vattekadu Road, Kaloor. Ask him what he is working on, he says, “Presently I am sculpting a crane's model and half done is a tree with birds.”
When there are machines and moulds available nowadays to make cement sculptures, Joseph believes in doing everything himself. From bending of iron rods to painting the sculpture, he does everything single handedly. “First I will draw an outline of the desired animal or bird figurine on the ground, then the rods are yielded according to that shape and then cement is put over the rods. Their shapes are then perfected using hands. Once the cement structures are made, they are kept in water for two days. Finally they are painted, using oil pastels,” says Lonan Joseph who was a building contractor by profession.
It might be amusing to know that this 88-year-old explored this passion in him only at the age of 60. “I never liked sitting idle, so after retiring as a contractor, I bought the necessary materials to my home and started to make pots. Then people from the neighbouhood asked for cement wash basin, water tank, Holy cross and the like. Thus it also became my livelihood. I married off my daughter from the money I got from the sales of these sculptures,” says Lonan Joseph who sold a 7ft giraffe model for Rs 1000 to a foreigner, eight months back.
Ask Joseph why he is working this hard even at this age, he says, “I have only one wish, that is to die without becoming a burden to my children. Also I get immense satisfaction while pursuing this passion of mine.”
Lonan apart from a minor hearing problem is hale and healthy at this charming age too. “He walks 6 kms every day and from Chembumukk where he stays, he takes a bus to reach here daily. Six years back he got a heart attack but after that he has not shown any illness,” says A J Kunjumon, family friend and owner of Matha Welding Agency where Lonan has been working for the past two years.
“I don't have diabetes or blood pressure. I do not take any medicines. Having mustard seed when I get gastric problem is the only medicine I take now,” adds Joseph about his fit health.
Joseph makes both small and big models of ostrich, peacock, giraffe, tree with birds, aligator, men and women image to name a few. Ask him among these which is the most difficult one, he says, “To make tree with birds sitting around it and ostrich's sculputre is the most time consuming of all. It takes almost 14 days to finish a single piece.”
The price is decided by Joseph himself according to the size, weight and the number of days he took to finish the piece.