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Lavanya Bahuguna


Why Leela Bordia’s 38-year-old Blue Pottery Work Is Still No. 1? JWB Finds Out.

  • JWB Post
  •  June 27, 2016


When you talk Jaipur, you speak Blue Pottery. And, when you talk Blue Pottery, you can’t refrain yourself from mentioning Leela Bordia’s name.

The Founder of Neerja International Inc is the pioneer when it comes to introducing Jaipur’s Blue Pottery art to the world. Leela Ji has adopted few villages in Rajasthan, falling under the range of 50 kilometers from Jaipur. The people living here are solely dedicated to bringing blue pottery alive.

All of us have read about this septuagenarian’s inspiring life and her unfathomable efforts to uplift the lives of artisans who had been living a life of poverty until she discovered them. Team JWB met the graceful lady to talk about her life arenas which were yet untouched by the world.

Are you afraid of the competition?

I started in the early 70’s, and we’re the first in the field. The time is constantly changing and every day, we are faced with a new competitor. However, I never feared any of them. Neerja International is the oldest and shares a certain reputation in the market worldwide.  

Competitors vary from copied designs to designs coming from China. I don’t even want to call them my competitors. The people who work for me are the real artisans; they don’t deserve all this.

What, according to you, is the reason behind your success?

To convince the customers from all around the world, we keep adding new items in our collection. We’re the first to bring in blue pottery door knobs and other utility items. Sometimes, customers don’t want to spend on art pieces.

Therefore, I decided to bring art into their daily usage things like bathroom accessories, jewelry, tiles, kitchenware, etc.

Also, we’ve brought more colors to blue pottery and today you can see yellow, black, green and various other tones in this artwork. It’s another story that others have started copying it.

What pushed you to write the book ‘Jaipur Blue Pottery’?

To my surprise, there isn’t a single book in the world’s library that talks about the Ceramic art of India. There are few mentions here and there that are restricted to one or two paragraphs. In this book, I have mentioned all about the Asian history of Ceramics and how the royals grew fond of it. This covers the regions like India, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan.

Before I held the pen, I had done a year-long research. I visited libraries to read every book ever written on ceramic and pottery art. I also visited museums of our country.

On what basis did you select the artisans you work with?

I didn’t choose anybody. This art chose me. I am thankful to these brilliant people who said yes to work with me. To begin with, I looked for underprivileged ones. Sadly, our country has many talented artists who die from hunger because they don’t find work that can earn them a quality livelihood. I wanted to support such people. Since I was dealing with the rural Rajasthan and had no significant industry backing me up, it took me some time to convince them. First, the men of the families rose. Once they gained trust and realized they could make decent money, they encouraged their wives and other distant relatives, too. Today, many families are associated with me – the grandfathers, fathers, and the sons work together.

Do you want to share one sweet memory of them?

Lala Ram Ji. This man believed in my dream the first day I met him. He patiently listened to my idea and then accompanied me to convince his fellow people. I respect his efforts.

Do you face Ageism?

Yes, I get to hear things like – “You are old, why do you still work.” I don’t understand what they mean by this. How can my age affect my passion and work? I still get jitters seeing the making of each blue pottery piece.

What can we learn from you?

That I haven’t stopped learning myself. Even when I am indulged in a conversation with a teenager, I grab the best out of his/her dialogues. I don’t want to kill myself with Í know it all’ attitude. The new generation has a lot to teach us. Their ability to make quick decisions and take actions without estimating the risk is what I admire the most. With age, we start calculating success. They don’t. They take the risk, and that’s the secret of one’s growth.

For example, I am not ashamed of taking help of my techie son who looks after the technical and online part of our company. I take his suggestions all the time.

As a mother, did you ever feel the guilt of not being there all the time?

Initially, I took the work slowly because my kids were small. Every 2-3 hour, I used to visit home to be with them.

I did feel the guilt until one day my then school-going son told me, “Maa, I can’t visualize you sitting idle at home. You have so much creativity inside you, and I am glad you’re pouring it out.”  That day, my son suddenly grew mature, I guess. Seeing both his parents work has instilled in him a sense of responsibility and wisdom.

What does the future hold for Leela and her Neerja International?

When I created Neerja, my plan was to give employment to the suffering artisans. This required taking the company commercially. Now that we have achieved a certain level, I want to work more towards preserving the art of blue pottery. I am planning to open a museum in Jaipur where the beautiful blue pottery will be on display for the general public. It will also serve as an educational forum. Can you see this big plate kept on my table? I got this made for the museum. It is one of its kinds.


We believe that Leela ji’s passion isn’t just limited to blue pottery, it compiles grand social work. Her vision is bigger than just selling her products. Her vision is to see the world that respects and preserves art together. She thinks her company Neerja International is one of the major steps towards it. Salute to this woman who isn’t just an Entrepreneur but a Socialpreneur. 



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