M. Elanchezhian (31), a fruit and vegetable carving artiste in Tamil Nadu's Theni district, has carved out the images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on a watermelon as a mark of welcome for the Chinese leader.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive here on Friday afternoon on his maiden two-day visit to the state. At around 4 p.m., he will travel by road to Mahabalipuram to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two leaders are scheduled to view the world-famous stone carvings there on Friday and Saturday.
Elanchezhian, who hails from Gudulur in Theni district, about 600 km from Mahabalipuram, has also carved the words "Welcome to India" in Chinese with the help of his Taiwanese friend.
"I had to wait for some days to get a suitable-sized fruit. The watermelon I used to carve out the portraits of the two leaders weighed about 4-5 kg," Elanchezhian told over phone from Gudalur.
"Trying to display the carving at the hotels where the leaders will be meeting or staying would involve a lot of permissions. Hence, I did not try for that. Nevertheless, I have done my small bit with this art which is also very popular in China," Elanchezhian said.
According to him, Chinese are also experts in this art.
A catering technology graduate, Elanchezhian decided to turn professional in this line and started teaching interested students. He also takes classes in catering institutes.
"People who go for work in hotel kitchens get higher pay if they know how to carve fruits and vegetable," he said.
Elanchezhian had earlier carved the images of former US President Barack Obama, late Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran.
The popularity of the art is gaining fast and even the Tamil Nadu government's Horticulture Department has allocated some money for fruit and vegetable carvings.
Queried whether he would carve images out of vegetables when his wife asks him to help out with cutting, he laughed and said: "At times I would cut small rose flower out of beetroot and put them in soup."
Elanchezhian said he can do the fruit carving blindfolded or with knife in his mouth.
"On hearing or seeing this, people with disability can gain confidence and can learn," he said.
( With inputs from IANS )