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On Entering the Eighth Year of Upcycling

Tithi vaar yaad nahin 
mahina tha janvari, saal 2016
Jab maine paryavaran ko 
swatchh karne ka beera uthaya.

Haath mein kainchi aur sui crochet ki,
'Jo plastic Ghar aaye kuchh bankar baahar jaaye' kaa naara liye 
Main akeli upcycling ki raah par
chal padi chal padi.

Badlaav niyati kaa neeyam hai
Plastic ke saath soot bhi jud gaya
Dono ki saath saath 
Upcycling main karne lagi.

Saat saal mein jab
shareer thaka aur taakat ghati,
Upcycling ki  bhi Raftaar ghati
Bade bhaari Mann se maine
Jamma plastic recycling ko de Diya

Thakk sakti hoon par rukk sakti nahin
Jab takk plastic ghar mein aa raha
Par abb jitna bann par raha
Uttna hi main kar rahi.

Jai upcycling.


     'avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.'

     by virtue of circumstances

     When you think you have enough. What's the need?

     when you start thinking in favour of environment

Letter to the environment

'Apni uljhan aap baraata hota khud  hairaan, khilona maati ke'  (line
from a song)
      (human being creates his own problems and then wonders about
Dear Environment,

          Forgive us. We have messed you up.
Focus is on you nowadays. Each and every person in some or the other
way is doing something for you. But is that enough? Or is it the right
way to go about it? Because with so much being done we are still not
able to get much results.
'Aage se cheenti na jaaye peechhe se haathi nikaltay jaayen.' (
concentrate on one small aspect and not bothering about the rest) is
the attitude taken by most of us. Sharing an incident from my life
around 80s when I started ironing clothes at home to economise. When
my husband saw me ironing he just asked me to check the electricity
bilI because I had not only switched on the light in the afternoon but
fan  and ac were also running to cool the room. Never seen the bill.
Electricity was on the company.
There were times when you were taken care of by the lifestyle of the
people. There was no need to study you. You were worshipped.  But now
with population explosion, financial independence and freedom you have
started getting exploited. Now is felt the need to teach you like a
subject whose question papers are set and answer sheets are corrected.
While correcting any answer sheet only the core subject and key words
are taken into consideration. Eg. language will be tested in the
language paper only. Not in other papers. And so on. If we correct
each subject error in each paper the students will fail.
Though you become a question paper with questions on how to correct
it, you are not to be corrected like just another  answer sheet. We
have to take care of you 24/7/12 for life to make you sustainable.
Anything that makes you up  has to be taken into consideration
simultaneously by considering the pros and cons or the balance will
not be maintained.  We have to keep thinking how our activities will
impact you.  At no point of life we can afford to give you a second
priority.  Alas, it happens ninety nine percent of the time. Any
celebration and you have to take a  back seat. 'Today is not the day
to talk or think about you.' And that time never comes because ours is
a country of endless festivals and celebrations and merrymaking. The
irony is that the affluent and people in positions are setting
precedents of pomp and show.
Does that mean we stop living? No. All that is required is to impose
self discipline on activities that one can do without. Desire has no
limit but the resources are limited. Keep asking 'Was there any need?'
or 'Can I reduce it?' 'No more', 'I have had enough' are the need of
the hour but no one seems to say so. If we fast to give digestive
system some rest, we can allow our desires to lie fallow for some time
to give earth breathing time. It still has a lot for our needs but not
enough for our entertainment.   We invest in insurance policies for
old age but no investment for earth on which our next generation will
At times I am told that I can afford to think so because of my age.
It's not the question of age. If what I studied in high school can be
taught to students before they go to school then what I am thinking or
doing can be practiced by anyone regardless of age.
In the movie Raazi for Alia Bhatt nothing mattered more than the
country.  She said 'Watan ke aage koyee nahin' ( country is most
important) . We can say 'Environment se aage kutchch/koyee nahin.'
(nothing/no one matters more than environment) Unfortunately  for us
'Environment ke aage society hai.'( society is more important than
The way we recklessly move about without giving you a thought makes
one wonder whether the issue is as serious as it is made to be.


(I have been the problem, I am going to be the solution)


Inspired by a video on FB and my daughter's coaxing to do something for the society, I started making it. A mat made out of plastic bags for the  homeless. I just got started without giving it much thought.  It indeed turned out to be a plastic guzzler. My stock of plastic would not suffice. I sent out the message to my friends. Mukta and Pallavi set the ball rolling instantly and were soon followed by Shivani, Nancy, Jigisha, Anu n Pooja. Usha said that she would also like to make them. None whom I approach for plastic bags has refused till day. One day  I found a plastic bag left outside my house. Must be Seema Sood's. This is not all. The first consignment of plastic has come from my family in Delhi. My friend in Pune has promised to keep all the plastic bags for me. And there are many who are collecting and waiting to give it to me. 


They are coming in all shapes and sizes. Till now I have not touched the big bags. I have different plans for them.  I am just consuming the loose change that is coming my way. They are the ones that clog the drains. The way it is eating plastic it would not be a bad idea if  a group of ten would get together and make one such mat. A lot of plastic waste would be taken care of. 


Once a teacher said about me, 'Mrs. Maker  thinks about Geography at breakfast, lunch and dinner.' Yes. When I work I work with  obsession and today I am obsessed with this project.  In fact I feel like the hero of the movie 'The Walk'. Wherever he went he looked for a place to hang his rope.  Wherever I go I am looking for some plastic bags only.


About 35 years ago my husband went to Bhopal. One day a small boy pestered him to buy the wooden wall hanging in the picture. He quoted Rs.80/-. 'Shehar mein to sahib dus guna bikta hai.' To get him off his back my husband quoted 20/. The boy agreed. My husband had no other option but to buy it. Rs.20/ for don't know how many hours of work. What do we call it? Desperate sale for a meal that day. It's not that the boy did not know the value of his art but was helpless because he did not have the access to a better option. Sadly nothing seems to have changed much.


 Today, ever since I started making handicrafts, I am wearing the shoes of the boy in the incident, the difference being that I don't have to worry about the next meal. Seen umpteen number of documentaries and photos of the deplorable and unhealthy conditions under which the children and adults are made to work. Never have I empathised so deeply and strongly. It started with the first crochet poncho I made about 8 years ago. 'Rita you are wasting your talent', 'Why don't you have an exhibition?' 'They will sell for thousands in the market' from the same people who were not ready to buy from me at half the market rate. Anyway I got tempted and took orders to make for friends. But when it came to pricing I was at a dead end. One friend told me to quote five times the cost price. Another told me that if I wanted to have a market I must keep my prices low. But to me nothing seemed enough for the effort and feelings that went into making. I did sell some but maybe I am not cut out to be a business woman. I continued to make for myself crocheting n knitting whatever I could lay my hands on. From Stoles, ponchos, baby blankets, coasters, dresses to purses, cushion covers and bedcovers. How much could I make for myself? Started gifting but there also reached a stagnation point. With both the children having left the nest, I had a lot of time on hands and needed some activity to keep myself busy. Could not find anything satisfying to do with my time. My daughter told me to pass on my talent but where were the takers. Everyone wants to do 'less effort more money' type of work. 'Mummy you can't do anything for the society by sitting at home.' I joined one animal hospital as a volunteer. That was not enough. Passed my day sleeping most of the time. It continued thus till early this year I saw a video on fb on making mats from plastic bags. And bang I knew it was God sent.

 Cut open the plastic bags, make strips ,join them to make chain and crochet. It turned out not as simple as it looked on the video. Plastic bags started pouring in. From milk packets to huge Hamley shopping bags. People around got more excited. Whereas on one hand I was sleeping to pass time, all of a sudden I seemed to have none for it. In fact no time for any other activity. For some days only plastic bags could be seen in the house to the extent that it got my otherwise supportive husband worried. What if one caught fire? Friends did come to help me out but I knew that was not a long time solution. Then I kept an assistant. 

 She takes the plastic bags home. She has to straighten and fold the crumpled bags before cutting them. Then I cut out the strips which she again takes home to make into chains. And then I crochet. Its only when you do you realize the plight of those who do for you. Though I had been crocheting earlier but crocheting with plastic is a different ball game altogether. Not only a slow process it is quite taxing on your arms, wrists and shoulders. Softer the plastic, difficult it is to crochet.

 To break the monotony, I made a simple clutch bag for a friend from bread wraps. She came back with a business proposition from her friend and asked me to quote a price. She also suggested that I just improvise it a bit to get a good price. Again I am at a dead end. They may have got excited by the novelty of it but I know from experience it will not materialize. They also sent a message that a rectangular piece would do which later they could convert into a purse. I told my friend to ask them to quote the price and then I will decide whether it is worth it or not. Anyway I still have not got around to making another one.

 The other day someone came to my house. He liked the mat I was making so much that he told me that he could easily get them sold them for Rs500/- each. That would be 1k/month because I just can't make more than two a month. To make more I will have to find someone who is skilled enough to understand how to vary the thickness of the strips because each bag is of a different micron. And it is an acquired skill. Also I will have to move at a pace that I will find difficult to match.

 For me employing one is as good as keeping another domestic help. In fact seeing her earn an extra buck by working from home is giving ideas to others. A couple of them approached me for work but I don't need more than one because it is easy to collect plastic but recycling with hands takes time. In spite of her help I put in about 8-10 hrs. daily. Also too much crocheting is not good for hands and arms. Moreover it is my way of paying back not only to society but to environment also. I can't think of doing business with it. 

 Making plastic mats serves my purpose very well. It's not only my contribution towards sustainability of earth but has become a mission to create an awareness of the plight of the artisans in this country. The first concern of my friends and family is of my health. Wish they feel the same about the unseen hands that slog day and night for livelihood in making beautiful artifacts to decorate out homes. A lot is being done to encourage the artisans but though handicrafts will continue to be appreciated, will the hard work of the artisans be ever rewarded? If we don't want the ancients crafts to die then we have to ensure that our prized possessions do not become someone's plight.

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