BENGALURU: While many of us rue the sad state of affairs in the education system, this fourth-year undergraduate student at NICC International College of Design went ahead and tried doing his bit to make things better for students. After having noticed a lack of benches and desks in government schools and the subsequent poor posture it gave rise to, Himanshu Devore started working on a prototype for a bag that can also be used as a desk.
Devore met an artisan from UP in Bengaluru who was heading back home for not being able to sell his products here. This inspired him to collaborate with artisans and tribals in an UP village in order to make his bag-cum-desk project, which he calls Saathi. It is made with moonj grass, which is used by villagers to make ropes, hand fans, baskets, brooms, mat, huts and shields for crop protection.
Devore also spent time studying anthropometry, a scientific study of measurements and proportions of the human body, and ergonomics, which is the process of designing workplaces, products and systems so that they fit users. “I checked with a Class 5 student about the size of the desk she uses, and the angle and height she usually writes at to develop the prototype,” he said.
He then went to Allahabad and got busy creating the bag. First Devore learnt how women artisans made moonj baskets, and employed a similar technique. “The dried grass was added to an aluminium vessel and thereafter, colours like green or red are added. The dyed grass is used to create motif patterns. After this, the dried Moonj grass is made into small knots. It is soaked in cold water for some time before coiling to ensure flexibility,” he explained, adding that another grass variant, kaasa, is used as the inside stuffing. Moonj is used to wrap around kaasa grass to make a coil. “The formed coil is winded in a series to make the base of the basket. The walls are made using the same technique. These coils are stitched together to make it strong,” he added. The handles of the basket too are made with grass.
Making the bag took three months. Books, stationery, tiffin box and water bottle can fit into it. “I tested it with the kid and it worked. The posture of the child was better. I wish to make more of this for rural children once I complete my studies,” he said.
More on moonj
Sarkanda and moonj Sarkanda, or sweet cane, can be seen growing our any empty dry tract of land in northern India. It is used when it dries up in winter and forms a sturdy hay-coloured stalk. These are used to make the frame of huge comfortable chairs. The top half of the stalk is softer and leafier and is locally called moonj.