Sunday November 17, 2019
Home Environment Meet The One ...

Meet The One Who Gave Birth To Tsunamika: Upcycling Waste to Hope

When the fisherwomen agreed, Prajapati brought loads of garment waste from Upasana and taught them how to make tiny dolls - these were named 'Tsunamika'

0
//
Tsunamika
The Tsunamika project has been given the 'Award of Excellence' by the Government of India and a special recognition by UNESCO. Pixabay

BY VENKATACHARI JAGANNATHAN

She gave birth to Tsunamika, the doll that brought hope to hundreds of women who had lost everything in their life to the devastating 2004 tsunami that hit the southern India coast. Fifteen years down the line, she, again through Tsunamika is giving hope to the same ocean that once took away much from many.

Uma Prajapati, 50, an entrepreneur-cum-social activist, who built the fashion garment company Upasana Design Studio in Auroville, now plans to carry out her business to sustain the future of the planet.

For a woman, who had to once play hard to convince her parents from Gaya, Bihar that her arena was larger than within the four-walls they gave her, Prajapati’s mission is now to protect the environment and promote sustainable living for those dependent on it. .

Her fashion garments only uses khadi, organic cotton and handloom. She has used her design skills to come up with a compact foldable shopping bag as an environment-friendly solution for plastic carry bags. She has also started projects like Paruthi working with farmers in Tamil Nadu to grow organic cotton and Varanasi weavers.

For Prajapati, born and brought up in small town in Bihar, the Auroville connection happened after she attended an exhibition in Pragati Maidan in Delhi. “Auroville had a stall at the exhibition. The place interested me and I wrote to them expressing my wish to make a visit. I got a positive response,” Prajapati told IANS from Auroville, the universal township near Puducherry set up to promote human unity.

Then just into the first few months in Delhi after she left behind a life most secluded and sheltered, the economics student from a Gaya college, who aspired to be a scholar, or writer, or painter, it was a huge leap.

Tsunamika
She gave birth to Tsunamika, the doll that brought hope to hundreds of women who had lost everything in their life to the devastating 2004 tsunami that hit the southern India coast. IANS

Taking two weeks off from office, she came down to Auroville. “I realised that Auroville was the place for me where I could be a designer and also a spiritual seeker. It was a radical place for me and I settled down here in 1997,” she said.

Be that as it may, Prajapati upon arrival in Auroville joined a small garment unit. Very soon with a small sum of Rs 2,000 she turned entrepreneur floating Upasana, which broke even in six months time.

Recalling her first social project — Tsunamika — Prajapati said life was chugging along well with her garment business that started in 1997. Soon, she was shipping out about 40 per cent of the production.

Then a tsunami wave hit the southern coast in 2004 turning lives upside down. Upasana turned from pure garment business outfit to a socially-conscious venture.

“When I visited the tsunami affected fishing villages in Puducherry, I saw the women staring emptily and silent. It suddenly struck me to ask them whether they would like to make dolls. My idea was to make them to focus on something else and ignite the fire of hope in their minds.”

When the fisherwomen agreed, Prajapati brought loads of garment waste from Upasana and taught them how to make tiny dolls – these were named ‘Tsunamika’.

While the women made the dolls, the mood was heavy and silence prevailed until one woman laughed. “Suddenly I heard laughter from one woman. She pulled the leg of her neighbour saying the doll she had made looked stupid, just like the maker. It was a small comment but the mood of the group changed immediately and there was laughter after several days,” Prajapati said.

She took the doll idea to several fishing villages in Puducherry and soon had thousands of dolls on hand giving rise to the concept of a ‘gift economy’.

The Tsunamika dolls are not sold but given as gifts. The recipient of the gift or others can make donation as per their capacity.

Donations received were used for making more dolls and payments made to the fisherwomen. “After a long time, there came a day when the thought of a donation didn’t occur, while gifting the dolls. The purity of the concept changes you slowly,” she said.

Over a period of 15 years, about six million Tsunamika dolls were made and sent to over 80 countries. The Tsunamika project has been given the ‘Award of Excellence’ by the Government of India and a special recognition by UNESCO.

Tsunamika’s story book was published in seven languages, English, German, Russian, Danish, French, Tamil and Spanish. Tsunamika is the only project post tsunami that is still active.

Prajapati said she was never tempted to use the brand equity of Tsunamika for her garments or tag the Upasana brand to Tsunamika.

“The concept is to upcycle waste to hope. From a symbol of hope, Tsunamika has now transformed to be the voice of the ocean, voice of the coastline spreading the message that oceans are not dumping places for untreated sewage water and other garbage,” she remarked.

The coastal community lists out three things that kills the ocean — black water (untreated sewage), over fishing by trawlers and dumping of garbage.

Prajapati will be targeting school children to imbibe and also spread the ‘save the ocean’ message.

Tsunamika
For The Tsunamika Project, Her fashion garments only uses khadi, organic cotton and handloom. She has used her design skills to come up with a compact foldable shopping bag as an environment-friendly solution for plastic carry bags. Pixabay

This thought gave birth to ‘Paruthi’ which was about growing organic cotton so that farmers can realise higher prices and the garment is made with eco-friendly cloth.

Working with about 600 farmers, Prajapati saw that organic cotton was grown in about rainfed 900 acres, in Tamil Nadu.

“We are looking at exports to Japan and Europe under the Upasana brand,” she said. The company has brand outlets in Puducherry, Bengaluru and Pune while supplying to 20 other retail outlets.

ALSO READ: India Assists Syria By Rebuilding Brain Power

That is a long long way from where she started when her father had told her painting and art were not stable income earners, she recalled.

“We had music, dance, painting tuitions at home. I learnt painting and music. Life was not difficult as father was into automobile business,” she said. But her parents were not sure of her professional choices at first. (IANS)

Next Story

One-man Campaign to Collect Plastic Waste which Pollutes River

Now, at 32, he has given up his job to move back there permanently to collect plastic waste which pollutes its waters

0
Campaign, Plastic, Waste
Bence Pardy, 32, carries plastic bags full of waste in Tiszafured, Hungary, Oct. 1, 2019. VOA

Bence Pardy spent his summers as a child by Hungary’s second main river, the Tisza. Waste.

Now, at 32, he has given up his job to move back there permanently to collect plastic waste which pollutes its waters.

The Tisza, one of the main rivers in eastern Europe, starts in Ukraine and flows across Hungary to join the Danube in Serbia. It then flows eastwards to empty into the Black Sea.

Over the past three months, working all day on his own from a small motorboat, Pardy has collected by hand plastic bottles from the river and its floodplains to fill 466 huge binbags.

Campaign, Plastic, Waste
Plastic waste is seen on the River Tisza near Tiszafured, Hungary, Oct. 1, 2019. VOA

In many places there are floating waste islands made up of plastic bottles already overgrown with lush vegetation.

“We used to have a house in a nearby small village and came here for the summers. There was no waste at that time… there wasn’t this craze for plastic plates and forks,” Pardy said, picking empty bottles and plastic bags from the grass and trees hanging over the slow-moving river.

He worked as a waiter in Budapest before he moved to Tiszafured, a town nearby, and now lives in a small caravan. As his money was running out, he launched a social media campaign to raise funds for the project.

During another large-scale initiative, which he also joined, volunteers removed more than 11 tons of waste from the Tisza this summer, Pardy said.

Also Read- Three Scientists Share Nobel Prize for Medicine for Work on Oxygen in Cells

The waste, which also includes refrigerators, car parts and even hazardous items such as needles, is mostly washed downstream from Ukraine during flooding from the waste dumps there, he said.

“I was so shocked by this that I could not continue doing and enjoying my job and now here I am,” said Pardy.

“My sad experience is that I see anglers or the people who come for holidays and they just walk past the rubbish, and even when it is at arm’s length, they don’t pick it from the river. I am astonished to see such negligence.”

Pardy said he was determined to continue what he started.

Campaign, Plastic, Waste
Bence Pardy drives his motorboat on the River Tisza near Tiszafured, Hungary, Oct. 1, 2019. VOA

“We are getting all the warning signs, and we still do not want to change. I think we are heading into an abyss at high speed… We believe we can separate ourselves from nature, and that our actions have no consequences.”

Also Read-Melania Trump Calling on Companies to Stop Marketing E-Cigarettes to Children

“I am trying to be an optimist, and yes, there are all kinds of efforts, but this is still way too little.” (VOA)