Look at a pile of trash – a few plastic bottles, unused pens, toffee wrappers, unused papers, and a lot more, waiting to be burnt, thrown away or buried. Does it speak to you? Do you look at it as trash that needs to be gotten rid of? Do you repel the very sight of it and want to destroy it or throw it out of your vicinity? What do you think happens with trash, once it is gone away from you? Is it burnt, creating more pollution? Does all of it get segregated properly? Does all of it get recycled? Where does it go then? What does it do to the earth and its inhabitants, us? Now, for a minute, look at the pile of trash, with a slightly different lens. As a resource for ‘creation’ instead of ‘destruction’. Look at it with the lens of ‘care’ and ‘value’, instead of ‘disgust’. Does it sound peculiar? Here is someone who is perceiving it differently. Subid Ahimsa – a civil engineering graduate from Kerala (1999) and a postgraduate in Industrial Design from IIT Delhi (2003) – can be identified as an artist, a teacher, an explorer and a learner. Subid looks at the act of destroying the trash as an act of Himsa (violence). In addition to the hundreds of thousands of acts of Himsa that are committed by us and around us everyday, this is another one that we perform on a daily basis. In the very act of ‘killing’ the trash, there is an underlying essence of Himsa or violence- an act that does no good, but causes harm at multiple levels and in multiple ways. Unusually, Subid looks at this ‘waste’, that he calls a ‘bi-product of development’, as having immense value and potential for beautiful creations. This unique thought struck him in the year 2011 during his meeting with Padma Shri Arvind Gupta, an eminent toy inventor and an expert in utilising innovations to drive impact. While working on the translation of one of Arvind Gupta’s toy-making short films, Subid saw the wonders that can be created from trash, if looked at from the lens of Ahimsa or Nonviolence – a tool for healing. This thought led him to start experimenting with it. He says that he wanted to try this out as a creative approach for kids because kids are crammed with trivial textbooks that hold negligible value in the world. Since then, he has been taking workshops for school kids on making toys with trash.
But, what all do they make? How do they convert trash into toys? It is not merely an art class. There is a lot more that the kids inculcate subtly during his session. In a typical workshop, the children come with different kinds of waste materials and those are then mixed together and kept in the centre, taking away the sense of ‘mine’ from each of those and giving a sense of collective ownership. It is then that the children are left free to explore, experiment, imagine and create some toys out of the trash, that is no longer looked at as trash. The contentment of the facilitator lies in bringing that sense of finding value in a waste, which no longer remains a waste. He mentions that the children come up with beautiful creations. Subid then helps the children to create something from the leftovers too. Beautiful creations, inventions and innovations, collaboration, lots of fun and no leftovers- that is what summarizes the exciting workshops conducted by him. The most popular toys by Subid Ahimsa are pen cap whistle, magic fan, CD top, climbing butterfly, plastic straw snake (his invention from a traditional toy), spiral snake, CD yoyo, etc. “Children are free to learn themselves by playing and dismantling them or by asking myself. Normally I try to answer questions only and help only the needed. My intention is to create a self-reliant and responsible generation. I teach we are building our world whether good or bad”, mentions Subid. He found this as a way, to not only to treat trash in a creative manner, but also as an innovative tool for educating children on values of care, patience, value of friendship, time and materials. His workshops are also a space for children to explore, experiment and create freely. Subid always used to entertain kids with crafts since his childhood and after learning from Arvind Gupta, he started conducting sessions in schools. Subid Ahimsa has done 600 sessions so far in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. More than just toy making, He believes that his sessions are a space for learning and sharing for everyone – for the kids and himself. He says that he has constantly been learning from the children – from their innocence and open mindedness. That is how the life of this toy maker has been beautifully carved, with the essence of care, non-violence, freedom and creativity.
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