19 Feb 2024  |   05:53am IST

One of the last Goan tradesmen keeping upholstery art alive

One of the last Goan tradesmen keeping upholstery art alive


SIOLIM: Narendra’s journey into the world of cushion work, upholstery, and curtain making was unexpected. Initially intending to pursue a trade in ITI after completing SSC, fate intervened when his uncle, the late Gajanan Narvekar, a prominent figure in this field, invited him to assist during the bustling period surrounding the 1983 CHOGM event in Goa. Seizing the opportunity, Narendra found himself deeply engaged in the family trade, discovering a passion for the craft.

While his uncle would receive many orders and even from five-star hotels, he would know that his nephew would shoulder the burden, and together they would be able to cater to any number of orders. “At that time, we were staying at Vasco, and it was just a hectic and busy schedule for me as my uncle had created that name for himself, and I had to help him keep up his name, so it was a big responsibility to live up to the expectations of the customers,” recalls Narendra.

After four years of apprenticing under his uncle, Narendra ventured out independently in 1987, establishing his own business. Despite the scarcity of Goans in this field, Narendra thrived, garnering a reputation for quality craftsmanship and reliability. However, he laments the declining interest among Goans in pursuing this trade, noting that today, the market is dominated by non-locals. “As it is now, so was then, there were very few Goans doing this job; nobody wanted to learn and make a living from it. Even today, the situation is the same. If you take a look, you will find all non-Goans doing this job of making cushions and upholstery. Many people used to approach me on knowing my work, and I used to have many orders,” recalls Narendra.

Despite the challenges, Narendra perseveres, operating from his home in Oxel village. With over four decades of experience, he remains a solitary artisan in his community, committed to his craft. Narendra is a one-man army. Though he is married and has a grown-up son, Narendra is very particular with his work and does not expect even his wife to help him, as he feels his job is his passion and every order helps to bring out a fine artist from within him. “I don’t expect my wife to help me as I feel I am passionate about it. For the last 41 years now that I am in this field, I have gained a lot of experience and have mastery over it. Even with my workers, I was quite particular,” he informs.

Presently, Narendra is the only such cushion artist in his entire Oxel village and feels that even in the whole of Goa, there could be just a handful. He regrets that this sector has an uncertain future with regards to Goans carrying it forward as this field is now fully captured by non-Goans, and nobody is even coming forward to learn it. There are orders coming for him from far and wide, but the only factor going against him is the fact that non-Goans who have now captured this market are a slight threat to him, though people who have tried and tested him will never leave him, he asserts.

The rate of his finished products depends upon the raw material used, and therefore, it also determines the price as most of his raw material is not found in Goa.

Having attained popularity and working for several starred hotels, Narendra also has achieved a unique status in life - his only son has gone to pursue a course in the Indian Navy. He does not feel sad that his son is not interested in his profession, as he is serving the country.

Though the future of his trade may be uncertain, Narendra remains steadfast, fuelled by his passion for craftsmanship and the satisfaction of a job well done.


Iddhar Udhar