A few decades ago, a child growing up in Kerala would cherish playing with square shaped balls and whistles made out of coconut leaves. These toys were a ubiquitous part of childhood.
With time, these environment friendly toys have been replaced with plastic ones. However, a graphic designer who once worked for advertising firms in Bengaluru, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia has quit his high paying job to become a toy-maker. His primary material? Coconut leaves! And he conducts workshops that teach children to make these toys, too.
33-year-old Nowshid Parammel is on a mission to spread the value of leading a simple life and promoting a sustainable lifestyle among children.
Nowshid spent his childhood in Bahrain and returned to Kerala with his family after his schooling. He went on to work as a graphic designer in Benguluru and later migrated to the UAE.
In his previous line of work, he'd created ads for many leading brands including Britannia and Mantri Developers. But in 2012, this young man decided to come back and lead a different life. He realised that at the end of the day, he was not happy with what he was doing and wished to return to nature.
“I thought deeply about how people are living now. People make life complex. We earn money, buy things, our health gets worse and we use the money we earned for medical treatment. I wanted an organic life and started living simpler. I came to Perambra in Kozhikode and stayed with the family of Ashokan, a propagator of organic living. He had a small establishment there called Samam, where anybody can go and stay. Ashokan calls it a place for people to get back their health and lead a new life. It is from there that I got my new life,” Nowshid says.
Nowshid learned to make toys from natural materials from Ashokan initially. He then went on to learn advanced methods of toy-making from several others.
“Whatever we want, we buy it from a shop. We teach our kids to do the same. We are good at making our children Hindu, Muslim or Christian. But how many of us think about making them self-sustaining human beings?" he asks.
“In many of my workshops I have seen the happiness on children’s faces when they make their own toys. They are surprised to hear the sound from the leaf whistles they make. We can’t deny this happiness to children,” he adds.
Commenting on how children play these days, Nowshid says that urban kids are mostly engaged only with digital games and are part of a consumerist culture.
“Kids should know how to play with the resources available around them. They should make things with creativity,” he says.
Most of Nowshid’s workshops are held in Bengaluru. Since he can’t earn much from these workshops, he also does freelance graphic designing work for a living. However, he says that he doesn't earn more than what's required to meet his basic needs.
“We do very less work using our hands these days. This toy making also involves the art of weaving. Leaf balls and caps have to be woven properly. All this is good practice for the hands,” he says.
The money isn't much but Nowshid believes the work gives him enough satisfaction.
“This makes me feel that I am with nature and I experience freedom, health, peace and self-realisation," he says.
Edited by Sowmya Rajendran