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Working with Bamboo: Kangi


Working with bamboo is a part of the life of
people here- Many people weave baskets to
keep poultry, bhaakri (bread) or cowdung, Malai
to catch fish and Kangi to store grain, at their
homes.
But some among them are artisans.
Barku Kondaji Pore, of Shiswad learnt all that he
knows about this craft by watching his father
work. He says,
Just like the teacher in school gives you a
beating if you dont know your letters, you learnt
this trade when, while working, you cut your
hand on the scythe and it bleeds.
This is their family profession, but Barkus own
children are not pursuing it. If they dont even
touch the bamboo, how will they know how to
do it?, laughs his wife, who also helps him with
the weaving. She learnt this craft only after they
got married and recalls how her father-in-law
made her undo a whole Kangi and redo it
because he detected a small mistake in the
weave.
One Kangi usually takes almost one whole day to
make if the bamboo strips are cut and ready.
Barku says that nowadays the number of artisans
doing this work has reduced. Also this trade is
rather dependent on the availability of bamboo.
Earlier it was freely available in the jungle, but
now they have to buy it.
My fathers time was totally different. He sold
one Kangi for Rs.7. Today I sell it for Rs.1000. But
the work is hard. There is hardly any bamboo in
the forest and even the Forester doesnt allow us
to take the little that there is. We have also
planted some bamboo here, near our home. It
will grow enough by next year and we can use
it.

However, it is not that the younger generation


has totally given up this trade. Navsu Dhondu
Bhangre of Khadki Budruk is in fact Barkus
student.
Navsu says, This was not my family profession,
but I learnt this from my brother-in-law, my
wifes brother is an artisan. I lived there, with
them for 5 years and learnt everything about this
trade and now I have started off on my own.
There is a good market for this now. I decided to
learn this craft because if I know this, I dont
need to go looking for work anywhere.
According to Barku , Today, there is no
alternative to a school education. If you dont
know your letters, will anyone even look at you?
But Navsu says that Kangi-weaving is a very good
supplementary livelihood to agriculture. Every
farmer, whether rich or poor, needs a Kangi to
store grain. Rats cannot enter it and the grain
remains dry. The length and size can also be
customised according to the customers needs.
Kangi orders start coming in after the rice harvest
every year. Every season, Navsu sells atleast 1012 pieces at an average cost of Rs.1000 each.
Navsus children go to school but are also
learning to make Kangis. This is much better
than going to Narayangaon to work as labour. I
can stay at home and earn just as much or even
more. I will definitely teach my children this
craft.

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Grass Craft: Woven Hats


Purushwadis Tukaram Baramate is a multitalented man. He farms his own patch of
land of course. He is also an artist- many
boards in the village, charts in the school,
painting houses and temples he does it
all.
But there is another special skill he
possesses- he makes hats out of a wild
grass called Kaandal.
He learnt to weave things out of this grass
as one of those fun things to do, as a child.
Till now, he only made them for the kids to
wear and play with. For the first time now,
at the Shiswad Festival, he is going to put
them up for sale. Other than hats, he also
makes baskets to keep vegetables at home,
flower vases, beautiful models of temples
and many other things.
Most people around here find it hard to
believe that even things made out of grass
can fetch a good price outside. So, he
decided to participate in this festival and
prove it.
His wife Vanita Baramate helps him with
cutting the grass, cleaning it and making it
into even sized sticks. Tukaram fits in hatmaking in his busy day- in the evenings
after he gets back from work and early
mornings before leaving for work.
This is time consuming and meticulous
work. It takes one whole day to clean the
grass, make the sticks and weave a single
hat. His little children and nephew have
also now started helping me in making the
hats. But it will be upto them what they do
in the future. Who listens to their parents
nowadays?, quips Vanita smiling.

Vaidu: The Traditional


Healer

Maruti Bhangres grandfather learnt a lot


about medicinal plants, while tending his
cattle in the forest. He passed this learning
to his son- Marutis father and Maruti in
turn inherited this knowledge.
Ever since he can remember, Maruti has
been going into the forest to search and
collect medicines as per his fathers
instructions. Soon he was helping grind
them into pastes, juices and powders and
then making medicines all by himself.
Medicinal plants from the forest possess
tremendous healing power. In them lie
remedies even for major illnesses like
Diabetes or Paralysis. Though in Ayurved,
it seems to take a bit longer for the effect
of the medicine to show, it is a permanent
cure. The illness never comes back, says
Maruti with complete conviction.
Lots of people have genuine faith in his
healing powers. People come from far and
wide to cure broken bones, snake bites and
many other ailments. His medicine has
even made people suffering from paralytic
strokes start moving and walking.

The prevalent deforestation here, just like


in other places, has almost wiped out some
wild plants. So sometimes, Maruti has to
trek as far as Harishchandragad and beyond
to hunt for some ingredients which used to
grow right in and around his village.
I know only one thing- the person has to
be saved, says Marutis father while tying
up the broken arm of an old man. This is a
kind of social service. The income from
being a traditional healer is not regular;
people give whatever they can and feel like
giving. Other than that, there is always
farming to fall back on.
A lot of pharmaceutical companies also
need these medicinal ingredients from the
forest. But people like Maruti ought to get a
commensurate return from the companies
in return for the knowledge services
rendered. And concerns of the
development of the whole village and
biodiversity conservation of the forest still
remain. So, how and how much to associate
with companies is something to give serious
thought to. WOTRs PBR (Peoples Biodiversity
Register) initiative in the village is a beginning to
this process.
Maruti is bringing Ayurvedic medicines to sell at
the Nisarg Utsav for the first time. He has also
made wooden models of farm implements to
exhibit there. He is also an active member of the
Bhaarud performing troupe of his village.
He plans to start a nursery of medicinal plants
near his home, so that the ingredients will be
right at hand. He says that he will definitely be
taking special efforts to pass on his valuable
knowledge to his own children.

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PBR (Peoples Biodiversity Register)
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traditional rice to be threshed and eaten at


home. The package rice is sometimes too
stickykind of bland.

The SHG Kitchen:


Traditional Rice
Women from Self Help Groups (SHGs) are
participating big time in the Nisarg Utsav.
Shiswad, Khadki, Purushwadi,
Pimprieverywhere preparations are in full
swing! Something is cooking; something
that has become rather rare nowadaysTraditional, hand-ground Rice.
Hand- threshed rice, as the name suggests,
is rice which has been threshed by hand,
not in a machine. Nowadays the loud roar
of the threshing mill has drowned out,
almost made us forget the steady thud of
hand threshing. But eat it once and the
taste of this traditional rice can never be
forgotten.
The hand threshing movement is like a
graceful dance. There is a hole called
Ukhal in the ground. 1 or sometimes 2
women together keep pushing the rice
seeds back into it with their feet, while
continuously pounding them with a heavy
wooden stick called a Musal. The rice is
then cleaned up by sifting out the husks
and the pounded again. This back breaking
process is repeated twice more and then
the fresh, delicious smelling rice is ready to
be cooked and eaten. Women since olden
days have composed many a song on this
work.
Gangubai Kondagle, from Khadki says,
Now the threshing mills are here. The
drudgery is no longer needed but the taste
of that rice can never match up to that of
hand-threshed rice. So, we still sow some

Package rice i.e. hybrid rice, grows well


provided it is given enough water and
fertiliser. But Gangubai says that unlike
these hybrids, old varieties of rice like Kolpi,
Jini etc. give some yield even in low rain.
Also, overuse of chemical fertilisers has had
an adverse effect on soil fertility and crops
like Masoor, Vaal, Hulga, which often
sprung up even on their own. At that time,
hardly anyone grew wheat. Climate change
and uncertain rains are a reality today. So
planting traditional varieties of seeds and
using organic manure might be a good
adaptive, sustainable solution.
There is not much of a market for handthreshed rice. But most of the SHGs are
bringing it for Nisarg Utsav.
Other than rice, Khadkis groups are also
bringing wholesome lunch- bhaakri (bread),
daal (soup like dish made out of pulses),
mutton and crabs too. The women of
Purushwadi are bringin crispy papads made
of Urad Dal and from Pimpri come sweet
potatoes and a nutritious tuber called Univ.
Women are the creators and perpetuators
of food diversity and culture. All this is so
that something from our old knowledge
and way of life is preserved and taken
forward, says Manu Kondaar from
Purushwadi.
All these women have successfully
incorporated and balanced the Old and the
New in their lives because each has its own
problems as well as merits.

Handmade Leather-works:
The Cobblers Quality Shoes
In the wee hours of the morning, when it is
still dark, he sets off from home with his
bag of tools and a small torch. This is
Ramnath, one of the few remaining
traditional cobblers of the area on his way
to clients from different hamlets. Every
village has some special holidays or a
weekly bazaar. Ramnath sets up his mobile
shop there on such days and makes slippers
and shoes for people on demand, custom
designed. Along with footwear, he also
makes other leather articles like neckbands
for bullocks, belts and even bracelets made
of plaited leather strips to guard against the
evil eye!
I get the material from Sangamner.
Nowadays consumption patterns of people
are also changing the new plastic ones are
more in demand. But they only last a few
months, while my handmade footwear will
last 4-5 years.
Ramnath has of course thought of
expanding his business by also selling
readymade footwear. But it is only available
in faraway towns like Sangamner, Thane or
Kalyan, and besides one needs capital for
the venture.
But even the way things are right now,
Ramnath takes great pride in his craft. He
believes that tradition must be kept alive,
even if doing that is not easy. One should
be proud of ones roots, the community
and profession that one is born into.
Fortunately, my son developed a genuine
liking for our work and is continuing it in
Junnar.

Many years back, during his fathers time,


people got really heavy, ornate slippers
made- many layers of leather nailed
together with big, thick nails. Nowadays,
people wear lighter ones. Making an
average pair of leather slippers now takes a
few hours if the material is cut and ready
and cost around Rs. 200. The traditional
ones took one entire day to make and cost
Rs.700-800.
Ramnath says that there are very few
craftsmen left in the area. There is just him
and one more family in Shiswad who make
handmade goods out of leather. He is
proud to say that, seeing the quality of his
work, many people prefer his shoes to the
readymade ones and come to him from
really far off villages too. Anyone can sell
readymade stuff. That only needs
investment of money. But craftsmanship is
not something you can get anywhere. You
have to have the grounding, the training for
it. It is something special.
Indeed.


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Village Entrepreneur:
The Self Taught Barber
Chau Sakharam Bhande starts laughing at
the thought of cutting womens hair. In
our culture, women dont cut hair!, he
says, they wear navvari sari, pallu on the
head and have long hair.
Well, Chau should know. He is after all the
local authority on hair considering that he
has been cutting the Khadki residents hair
for over 8 years now. Haircutting is not a
family vocation. He doesnt belong to the
Navi (Barber) caste, which traditionally cut
hair in the region. So he hadnt been
handed down a generational skill as such.
He had learnt it by watching the barbers cut
hair. It is expensive and troublesome to go
all the way to Rajur to cut hair. The cost of
bus and the time it takes is not worth the
while. It would be simpler to cut hair at
home or in the village. That is why I took it
up, he explains.
Surprisingly, Chau doesnt charge people
for haircuts. People just come to him, and
he cuts their hair on goodwill. Sometimes
he even has to skip lunch just so he can
deal with the numbers that land up at his
doorstep for a trim.

He also has managed to learn different


types of cuts. He picks up hairstyles from
posters in Rajur, or the movies. Young
people ask for Mithun cut, or soldier or
half-soldier cut, he says and he is happy to
oblige. He starts laughing when asked
whether he has cut in Ghajini style. Its a
little weird, is his explanation to why
people havent asked for it.
The Biodiversity Festival is going to see him
set up his own stall. People are going to
come from out, well-known people from
cities and all, he explains. I am going to
start my own shop on this occasion!, he
declares. Chau now plans to go
professional. Using the Festival as a
launchpad, Khadki Budruk will see its own
shiny new barber shop. According to him it
made sense to cater to the local people
through a local business, which is the crux
of the Festival according to him. I will
charge differently. At Rajur if the haircut
costs Rs.25, I will charge Rs.20 or Rs.15.
Chau also is a farmer, but farming alone
doesnt bring in enough earnings. Hence he
takes on many odd-man jobs sometimes
electrical works and whatever comes to
hand. He is not sure whether his son will
continue with this vocation. If he is
educated, he may not be able to turn to
this job, is his conclusion.


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have changed according to him. Life used to


be much simpler.

The singing Blacksmith


There is a smiling old man in Shiswad who
has a busy schedule. He is the much
respected Shankar Raut who is a unique
combination of Blacksmith and Kirtankaar.
When he is not at the bellows making and
repairing the farmers and labourers
implements, he is busy on Kirtan tours to
other villages for their Saptah/ festivals.
Also, as a learned man, well versed in (HBP,
as he calls it), people come to him for
advice about their new venturesmarriages, building a new home, starting a
business.
Rautbaba comes from a long lineage of
blacksmiths and learnt the trade quite
naturally, watching his father and brothers
working the hammer and bellows.
Eventually, the brothers and their families
spread out in the area, setting up their own
smithies. Lohaarbaba settled in Shiswad in
1964 with his family and soon became an
intrinsic part of the social fabric of the
village.
Talking to him today, after decades of
practicing his family craft, he says,
Blacksmithy has changed a lot over the
years. Earlier it was enough to have the
bellows and a hammer but now we
require different machinery like welding
machine or drilling machine which run on
electricity, generator it requires capital,
says Baba about his trade and craft. Times

Rautbaba doesnt own any land. He has


always charged only for his skill of making
the implements and people usually pay him
in grain. But he seems to have come to
terms with changing trends in his business.
His own son does odd jobs in the city.
Today, it is difficult to make a living out of
this. The costs of raw materials are
increasing while income is reducing. he
says quite matter-of-factly.
The iron required for the implements are
usually brought by the people and
sometimes he provides it. It is generally
bought at Rajur.
His Kirtan singing is not an economic
venture. Whenever he goes anywhere for
his singing and preaching programmes, he
gets some money from the village as a
token of respect. But this is not a regular
income. He feels duty bound to continue
his singing, which is also something he does
with great joy and commitment.
Back in 1964, when he came to Shiswad,
women were never encouraged to sing. But
the village started gathering to hear him
and his wife sing bhajans. Over the years,
they trained many young people, including
girls as singers and were unquestioningly
trusted to take them along to many villages
on singing tours. Eventually, all the girls
get married and go off to other villages
but still the culture continues, he says and
his eyes shine with contentment.

Khadkis PBR:
Pandu-Balu
Register!
Two residents of Khadki Budruk have a
treasure! But unlike most treasures, it is not
a secret one. They want to show and share
it with everyone. In fact, they are even
exhibiting it to the public in Shiswads
Festival. This is Pandu and Balus wonderful,
assorted Biodiversity Sample Collection and
Register.
Pandurang and Balu Bhangre are two young
men, who got introduced to WOTR and its
ECO course for the village youth sometime
back. There they gained exposure to issues
of Biodiversity Conservation and Climate
Change and soon got more and more
involved in working for their village. Pandu
not only works as a Wasundhara Sevak with
WOTR, but is also a representative in the
Gram Panchayat.
Most young people their age are now
totally disconnected with traditional
knowledge sources of the village- like
knowledge of traditional agriculture, the
jungle and traditional arts and crafts. But
Pandu and Balu have actually gone the
extra mile and collected traditional seeds of
foodgrains and other crops, wild vegetables
and fruits and medicinal plants. Many extra
miles, in fact, due to deforestation and
most people turning to hybrid seeds and
cash crops, these have become very rare
plants, At times they had to travel 40 km
from their village and convince people from
some really remote hamlets, who still
practiced traditional agricultural practices,
to give them a sample of their seeds!
As Balu says, People thought we were
quite mad, at our age, to be collecting
seeds like little children. They also were
very uncooperative in digging into their

memories and giving us information about


our own traditions. But now they have seen
that we are serious and also have started
realising the importance of what we are
doing and slowly their attitude is changing.
Children especially tag along with us all the
time. That is great, because we are doing all
this work so that this knowledge is
preserved for future generations.
Pandu is an expert in medicinal plants and
Balu is a meticulous collector and record
keeper. He has a neat, detailed register
with records of 300-350 different florafauna and also of the communitys customs
and way of life. There is also a herbarium of
about 30 medicinal herbs- leaves pressed
into a book, with the local names and uses
of the plant. Also they have craftwork done
by local artisans, snake skins and local fish
breeds. We realised right at the beginning
that there is no point only collecting
samples. Social Awareness needs to be
created and the Shiswad Festival is a great
start. People in cities are so disconnected
from the rural way of life and even our local
youth are often clueless. This is our attempt
to reconnect with our roots. Climate
Change is a reality and in order to cope with
that, we need to preserve traditional
knowledge. Many of these plants also have
great economic value today with
pharmaceutical and other companies. We
want our people to be informed and
conscious in all ways about their natural
heritage and also its conservation, says
Pandu wisely.

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