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|June 28, 2000|
"It's a dream come true," says Jashuben Shilpi, 52. If the line seems trite, the emotion isn't. For on July 3, US President Bill Clinton is to honour this Ahmedabad-based lady, invited by the International Millennium Congress on Arts and Communication, for her achievements in sculpture.
"Six months ago, when I got this invitation I was really thrilled. VIPs like Vajpayee and Advani have inaugurated my bronze sculptures, but no one has ever cared to talk to me for five minutes. And here I had an invitation from America. Naturally, I felt happy."
Jashuben, who has been a professional sculptor for the last 27 years, has 300 sculptures to her name. In Gujarat, it's difficult to find any city or town that does not have one of her creations in a prominent place. She is known for her busts of freedom fighters, from Mahatma Gandhi to Indira Gandhi.
Earlier, she had the backing of her husband, Mohammad Sheikh, whom she had met in college. Sheikh, a well-known sculptor then, changed his name to Manhar Shilpi after marriage. He died of cancer in 1989.
Jashuben has never been averse to manual labour, pitching in whenever the occasion demands it. Her studio in Vejalpur, Ahmedabad, is one of the most modern in Gujarat.
Jashuben uses bronze, aluminium and copper and herself does the gas and electric welding, hot-metal moulding, or anything else that may be required.
It was as a student of C N Fine Arts College that she found her muse. On a study tour of Gwalior, she saw the impressive 12-foot statue of Jhansi's Queen Laxmibai. She was overwhelmed and decided that one day she too would carve a statue of the defiant queen.
Thirty-five years later, she did just that. Rajkot's municipality commissioned her to make a statue of the queen. It took Jashuben six months of work to make the statue that stands 18 feet tall and weighs 4500 kilos.
That mammoth venture gave her a place in The Limca Book of Records.
Since Jashuben is now going to meet Bill Clinton, she fashioned a bust of the American president that she hopes to present to him.
What lies ahead?
Apparently a bronze statue 150 feet tall.
"My next ambition is to establish a world record," she says.
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