10 Jun 2024  |   07:15am IST

Amit Chopdar’s journey from migrant labourer to Siolim church’s trusted artisan

Amit Chopdar’s journey from migrant labourer to Siolim church’s trusted artisan


SIOLIM: Amith Chopdar was born and raised in a poverty-stricken family in rural Karnataka. His childhood, like that of many in rural India, was marked by severe poverty and limited access to education. His family struggled to make ends meet through low-paying jobs.

At the age of 14, Amith, along with a group of workers from his village, moved to Goa through a contractor. He recalls, “During the 1980s, Goa was experiencing rapid growth, with numerous infrastructural projects underway. A significant labour force was needed, but local Goans were not interested in construction jobs. A prominent builder from a well-known company in Goa brought many labourers from Hubballi. As a young boy, I joined the group out of necessity. It was a matter of survival—stay home and face starvation or move out and earn a living. With this in mind, I took the leap and soon found myself working at important and prestigious government sites in Goa.”

“I learned all types of work connected to construction sites, but I was keener on carpentry. Due to my age, I was given minor jobs such as hammering and scraping,” he explains. For six years, he lived with his colleagues in Sanquelim, commuting to Panjim and nearby areas where numerous projects were underway.

During this period, Amith discovered his true calling and developed a passion for carpentry. In 1986, he moved to Siolim and decided to focus exclusively on carpentry. “All along, I wanted to create my own identity. When I came to Siolim and worked for many people who appreciated my work, I gained confidence and felt I could now call myself a real carpenter,” he says. By 1993, in his early thirties, Amith felt it was the right time to marry. After saving some money from his work, he married and started a family. Today, he is the father of six children, though none have shown an interest in carpentry.

Amith slowly became renowned for his meticulous and skilful work. He is particularly known for reviving old wood, making it look new and vibrant. Repairing wooden items is second nature to him, and he takes great pleasure in giving new life to discarded wood. “Wood is very precious and should not be easily discarded. It should be made use of in every possible way,” he insists.

About four years ago, during the renovation of the Church of St Anthony in Siolim, Amith’s skills were recognised on a larger scale. A villager, Allison Fernandes, introduced him to the then-acting parish priest, Fr Clifford Castellino. Impressed by Amith’s talent, Fr Castellino entrusted him with the crucial task of restoring old wooden statues, altars, and other items, requiring careful attention to detail.

Amith’s impeccable work quickly won the confidence of the church committee members. When Fr Socorro Mendes took over as parish priest in June 2021, he continued to rely on Amith for all the church’s carpentry needs, including polishing, repairing, and painting wooden items. For the past three years, Amith has worked exclusively for the church, restoring many antique wooden pieces. His efforts have been instrumental in helping Fr Mendes create a museum of wooden items for the church, preserving its rich history.

Amith recounts, “Fr Mendes is very keen and concerned about preserving the history of St. Anthony Church. He leaves no stone unturned in giving new life to all abandoned and important church wood items.” Despite his success and constant work for the church, Amith, now around 60 years old, is content with his modest lifestyle, still living in rented premises.

“Earlier, I used to work for different people and get paid well, but I never managed to save anything for myself. I would spend all my earnings on my children’s welfare, as I thought it was my duty as a good father,” he explains. “Today, I am satisfied that I have ensured my children stand on their feet, though I am slightly pained that none are interested in taking up my occupation. Now, working for the church, I can save money, even if the pay isn’t a lot. It is a real blessing. For a Muslim person like me to get this opportunity to work continuously in the church and be appreciated for my work is something that does not come easily.”


Iddhar Udhar