‘Ahimsa Toys’. That’s the name Subid K S chose, for the toys he makes out of everyday materials - newspaper, thread, plastic bottles, safety pins and anything useless. However, a lot more than just waste management condenses into an ‘Ahimsa Toy Workshop’, as was evident at a session held at the capital city, recently.
“This is a ‘samaram’,” he says. Should ‘samaram’ be translated as a protest, it is a protest against the existing educational systems which, according to him, turns children into puppets. He has an impressive reply for the quintessential Malayali question of ‘What have you studied?’ - a BTech in Civil Engineering from Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Technology, Kottayam, and Master’s in Industrial and Product Design from IIT, Delhi.
“I have studied a lot. But at the end of it, I was not sure about my way forward. I don’t want the new generation to suffer through that,” he says. For this reason, he encourages them to learn everything on their own.
The session was part of ‘Sangeethachola’, a three-day summer workshop for children conducted by MBS Youth Choir. Though the workshop primarily focused on music, there were sessions on waste management and other socially relevant issues.
Subid has not designed any of the toys and never forgets to give credit to www.arvindguptatoys.com. It is the workshop that is his creative genius. He says, “Their attitude towards waste should be that of ahimsa.” A note stuck on his steel case of toys reads: “Every piece of waste is an article. Every article has its use.”
His key strategy is to make his own presence non-essential at his workshops. He starts with opening his steel case and handing out the toys to the children. The children would be lost admiring the ‘climbing butterfly’, cardboard cut in the shape of a butterfly which seems to climb up, when you pull the strings. Or the ‘psychedelic yo-yo’ made of CDs. While at it, they would be unlocking the mechanics of these simple toys, on their own, without being asked to. And that’s lesson one.
After a while, without ceremonies or an introductory speech, Subid would show how to make a toy to one or two children. Eventually, when the others notice some of their peers making the toys and go up to Subid, he would encourage them to learn from other children.
Soon, the children would ignore Subid and get to work on their toys. Some of them would even attempt to make toys that were not part of Subid’s steel case. On Tuesday, when a few children decided to make a doll with a parachute, he asked them to try.
They wrapped cloth around a plastic bottle; braided threads and stuck it to the bottle cap; painted a face. The doll was pretty. The parachute was a plastic cover which sprung from the doll’s head by means of several threads. Should an onlooker ask if it is too heavy, Subid would say “Let’s see,” and does not bother about the laws of motion. For, even if the doll fell headlong, after being tossed into air, it was an idea created from scratch.
The workshop encouraged to create something new. Children came up with improvisations of the toys in the steel case. The workshop became a riot of ideas and Subid looked happy finding himself in its midst.