An expeditious knit through the orange crepe, a green paper twisted and folded. Before you realise what the man is doing, there is a marigold in his hand. He then takes a white piece of scrap paper, cuts it random, rubs it against a cloth and hands over a leaf with crinkly surface. At ‘Padma’ his residence, no material goes redundant. Contrary to the notions attributed to octogenarians, M P Sivanand scurries about with his passion.
An accountant by profession, Sivanand inherited the flair for numbers from his father who dealt with the accounts of various reputed firms in Kochi. After years of work here, Sivanand left for Muscat where his latent talent surfaced.
“We had quite a few programmes there and were in need of firecracker flowers (Kanakambaram). When we couldn’t find them anywhere, so I settled down to create some artificial ones using paper,” said Sivanand about his first venture. “Since then I have been asked to help on such occasions. Eventually, I became the stage designer for plays and other events” he laughs reminiscing. His expertise over ornamentation helped him set the stage for Sudha Chandran’s performance in Muscat.
“I also made flowers which she wore during the dance,” he said. “It was a nice time then and on various occasions I got to meet people like Prem Nazir, Yesudas, Chitra, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Mandolin Sreenivas among others.” He had also designed stages and made accessories for some Malayalam and Tamil plays there and once he even decorated a marriage hall.
What initially began as a pastime later turned into his profession. Sivanand found himself doing projects for schoolchildren and taking up assignments for different clubs. The deforestation model, the drip water irrigation model, two satellite models, the Chinese net, the house boats, the spinning wheel, the space craft, the bridge, a huge pillar, to name a few reflect his skill and craftsmanship. While he conceives some of them in his mind, there are things he hasn’t seen. “I didn’t know how a satellite or spacecraft looked like. Some people offer help by showing the pictures on the computer screen and I try to replicate them,” he explains.
One could get astonished seeing the way he manoeuvres the otherwise unwanted ingredients. The water surface around the ship, for instance, was made by folding a paper loosely around a pipe and crumbling it with another, without tearing it up. Ask him how he got the idea, he says “I don’t know. It just came to my mind, I tried and it came out well”
Apart from the cardboard boxes, sponges, foils, cotton pieces and corrugated sheets, he also collects lively and radiant colour papers for preparing the background for his models. Twigs when stuck on plain boards turn into beautiful specimens of art. He used X-ray films to make ships, velvets, beads, exhibition leaflets, colourful advertisement pictures, gift wrappers, thermocol, tile wrappers, wooden sheets etc. “Nothing is a waste. There is art in everything,” says the craftsman who loves colours yet keeps them off in his life.
“Only when I reached Muscat did I wear something colourful. White shirt and black trousers. Till then and since the return it has been a white-shirt-and-white-mundu costume for me.”
An avid reader and collector of geographical magazines, Sivanand has a good many of them collected from different places. Another fetish is the telescope with a tripod which he once owned and later donated to the Cochin College. “The books and magazines too have been given away to the YNP Trust as I thought it would be of better use there.”
Adding to his unorthodox set of hobbies is the collection of fancy toy cars which again, has been purchased from various places and kept flamboyantly in the show case. “Nobody has such interests here but me,” says the 83- year-old who lives with his ailing wife in Fort Kochi. He does all the household work as their children Valsan, Mitran, Seema and Veema live in far off places. “I get up at 5 am and a 20-minute exercise keeps me fit,” he says.
Ask him about his ‘dream work’ and he replies, “I have kept this a secret. I want to make a temple pillar,” he giggles. “Every object I see gives me an idea. Even during my sleep I think of them,” he says with laughter. At a time when most of his colleagues are ruminating over the bygone days, here is one man who dreams of the future, making plans and executing them. Age is after all just a number.