Photographer: Deepak Turbekar
Ten-year-old Rahul strikes a mean stance with a cricket bat, sporting Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s photograph. Chaya, 12, poses in a hat with a headline from this paper stuck around it’s rim: “BMC Will Buy Your Kachra”. Mridul, 11, prances around a 6-foot rocket, blowing his own trumpet on a bugle, and evading sharing the same with his friends. More children collect slowly. They hold up model airplanes, kick around footballs, twirl lanterns, feel up pillows and gasp at Ganpatis. Why? Because all these items are made from throwaway plastic bottles, newspapers, cans, tins and cardboard boxes. The Maharashtra Nature Park at Mahim, put out a few exhibits from their to-be-opened ‘junk display and workshop’ on some stands. As scores of school children on an educational visit broke file to mill around and giggle, marvelling at each item, V R Iyer, the maker of these masterpieces, giggled with them. “There are more gunny bags full of such inside!” he exclaimed. “Imagine what a hit they’ll be with kids.”
Iyer’s career as ‘waste wizard’ (as credited by the Limca Book Of Records) has included the decorative (trophies, flowers, airplanes, rockets, boats, lanterns, lamps, caps) and the utilitarian (snooker and carom boards, pen/pencil holders, flower pots, mugs, jugs, footballs…). Conducting workshops on this craft all over India and the US, his ‘gifts’, concocted from raw material like plastic bottles and sunflower oil containers, have been presented to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Ashutosh Gowariker and Aamir Khan. His artistry however was given more permanent stature only recently when Avinash Kubal, Deputy Director of this park, visited his house to request him to part with his produce. “Mr Iyer specializes in plastic, cardboard and paper recycling,” Kubal explains. “We want to combine this others, like a man who works with glass and a Dharavi unit which specializes in bottles.” Such a scheme will attract visitors via the products themselves, thus offering a sort of crash course on how to create them.
“Who understands the environmental significance of a bee while squashing it?” a teacher tirades to the school children on this educational trip, torn away from the Dhoni bat and made to sit cross-legged and just listen. “And the snakes which you know only to fear? These snakes eat rats, which are today responsible for gobbling up to 26% of our food grains!”
“The potential,” answers Iyer as to what had first made him try to convert a cast off pet bottle into a trophy. The same potential has spurred Deputy Director Kubal to use this art as a means for reducing pressure on dumping grounds, and instilling environmental interest into the taciturn mind of a child. Such intent glistens also from two trophies on the stand, made of cardboard and plastic: one is a replica of the 1983 world cup, the other of the World Twenty20 trophy. Yet almost drowning these victorious voices, as if by a tsunami, is the proclaimed potential of nature. “Do you know what this global warming will do?” the teacher tirades on. Then he dismisses class which crowds around the exhibits again. Some confusedly caress a plastic Ganpati sculpture on which is written in black marker ink: “Global Warming is man made and is worse than war or terrorism.”
This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/nvg2