From carpenter to artisan: Pandemic journey of a coconut shell crafter

When the pandemic struck, Ramdas Mohan found a new passion in crafting coconut shells, turning his spare time into a creative journey of making handmade items
Handcrafted items  from coconut shells.
Handcrafted items from coconut shells.Photo | Express

KOCHI: At Ramdas Mohan’s house in Thrissur, one is welcomed by an array of handcrafted items, primarily fashioned from coconut shells. At first glance, one might assume he is an avid collector of handmade products. However, this impressive collection stems from a hobby he embraced later in life and continues to passionately pursue.

Until 2020, his life was centred around his job as a carpenter at Silver Yacht Dubai and his family with little or no entertainment activities. When the pandemic struck, his days at home in Kerala felt aimless, prompting him to seek out engaging activities. It was during this period that he discovered the art of crafting handmade items.

“I never thought of taking up a hobby at the age of 45. Creating handcrafted items was completely new for me. I never knew the basics. Initially, I intended to make free time at home productive,” says Ramdas.

It was coconut shells that were readily available in his vicinity. Ramdas decided to put his amateur crafting skills to use. Rather than making something for himself, he aimed to create a useful household item.

“I attempted to make a ladle for the kitchen, but unfortunately, it was a complete failure,” he adds.

Later, he learnt the nuances of the craft from YouTube and created a lamp out of coconut shells. “That was the beginning of my journey in handcraft. My family and neighbours loved the lamp and encouraged me to create some more,” he recalls. Handcrafts have become a part of his life since then.

After his departure to Dubai in October 2020, Ramdas’s creative endeavours, including crafting peacocks, pen holders, turtles, and helicopters, were expected to slow down after a six-month hiatus. Despite his intention to focus solely on his work at Silver Yacht Dubai, his manager encouraged him to continue creating more crafts.

Ramdas Mohan
Ramdas MohanPhoto | Express

“My manager Subair came to know about the crafts through Facebook posts. When I make some good craft decor items, I post them in WhatsApp groups to share with my friends, who then post the images on Facebook tagging me. This is how my colleagues came across my work. Once I returned to Dubai, my friends and the company management asked me to continue making more crafts,” adds Ramdas.

Though coconut shells weren’t available rampantly in Dubai as compared to his hometown, Ramdas collected them from supermarkets. “After grating and packing coconut, these shells are dumped most of the time. I contact these markets and collect them,” he says.

In the UAE, it’s a collective effort of the five of his roommates as well. “They assist me in making these items and give suggestions and ideas. Their support, makes me want to do more,” he says.

Balancing his job with the sea trials he conducts as part of his work, Ramdas still finds time to create a variety of items. “The satisfaction I feel upon completing a piece, whether it’s an elephant or a turtle, is immense. The pleasure I get from creating this work is beyond words. I sometimes even dream about them,” he says.

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