This chapter is about recent processes concerning mainly education and recent modernization, which are changing, and will further change contemporary Kumartuli. With a dramatic increase in the level of education among Kumars, the need for middlemen to reach a global market for their products is diminishing. Moreover, with its further integration into global markets, education and contemporary and pan- national ideals of development can be seen as an integral part of the life of most Kumars. The concept of Kumartuli as a neighbourhood outside the passing of time (Fabian 1983, Heierstad 2009), a living museum of ‘the age- old art of murti making’, must be rejected – again. No need to be deceived by the simple conditions under which most Kumars work, and the seemingly pre- historic process of making status- giving objects with unbaked clay. Kumartuli is a hub of modern capitalism and globalization.
The opening up of the Indian economy in the early 1990s made no immediate impact on Kumartuli. Indirectly however, it created better connections with clients abroad through the globalization of the local economy and the growing impact of information technology in India. When a few Kumars started to use the Internet at the beginning of the twenty- first century, they also started to take control and empower themselves in opposition to local intermediaries. With education from colleges and universities in Business and Art, the new Kumars take their trade into a new area in a way comparable to what the likes of Gopeshwar Pal did seventy years earlier.
However, not every aspiring Kumar comes from a family who can afford the expenses of a higher education. This suggests that the economic divide is gradually being cemented in Kumartuli, as those provided with a higher education are able to develop the business and earn more money.
At the same time, all Kumartuli is facing a radical makeover. In late 2007, plans were finalized to convert the neighbourhood of rundown and inexpensive, but convenient, workshops into a multistoried building. The result is set to be a combined shopping centre and working area for those Kumars who can afford the transition. Views on need and possible impacts vary greatly.
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