Nothing is waste for toymaker Subid Ahimsa leading biennale workshop

Kochi, Jan 14: For Subid Ahimsa, there is nothing in the world that is waste, and this is something the IITian-turned-toymaker reiterates at a workshop the youngster led alongside the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

Addressing a session on toy-making using waste material, he tells participants at the art room in Fort Kochi’s Cabral Yard on Monday that children have been his teachers, giving him fresh ideas. “In all my workshops, I may not be sure if I am imparting any ideas to the kids, but I always gain something new from them,” shares Subid who took training in toy-making from Arvind Gupta, a pioneer in making toys out of ordinary stuff. “I consider him as well my guru, and the website my manual.”

Subid finds present-day education system “very bookish” and capable of killing one’s ability to learn. “This two-day workshop is an attempt to give confidence to children that they can create anything if they have the determination and zeal. Also, it makes them understand that importance of waste management,” notes the master who quit his lucrative corporate job to do “something different”.

Through making toys from ‘waste’ or low-cost/easily-available materials, Subid is trying to spread the spirit of ‘ahimsa’. “Toys create happiness, the first gift to a child, best next to care. I wish to spread the message of non-violence for a peaceful world,” he says. “I have chosen toys as a good media to communicate this. It would be great if anyone is interested to develop this work.”

The January 14-15 workshop is being organised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation as part of its ABC (Art By Children) programme that finds the participation by adults as well. ABC head Blaise Joseph introduces Subid as a non-corporate person who follows Gandhian principles. “His vision is to build a world where people are respected for their social values,” says Blaise. “One where children are empowered not by mere degree, but by good principles and creativity.”

Childhood is the time to observe, learn, unlearn and connect with nature and surroundings but society traps boys and girls in activities carelessly slotted as matters towards development, says Subid. “Through development, we see nature is being overwhelmed by pollution. We have to realise the usefulness of the things we throw away. Everything can be useful,” notes the toymaker, who hails from Valancherry in northern Kerala’s Malappuram district. “Instead of destroying trash, we just have to think for a while.”

Paper fans, puppets, flutes made of straw, magic paper wands, spinning toys using old CDs and flying toys are just some of the things Subid makes to spread his message. “Toys made are repairable and re-makeable, giving valuable lessons of self-reliance and sustainability. The process teaches values like care, share, patience and teamwork,” says Subid, who has been part of many people’s movements and was jailed for a week as part of the famous ‘Plachimada Struggle’ against an MNC that drained resources from a rugged Palakkad village in the early 2000s.

At the biennale workshop, Bangalorean Anvesha K, a class-3 student who is in Kochi on a break, is drawn to the interactive workshop. She plans to spend the day here. “I am enjoying myself,” she says “Never thought so many interesting toys could be made using CDs, which I generally throw.”

Mary Daya P S, who was busy making whistle using old pen, bottle cap and strews, says she never thought so many toys could be made of everyday objects. “Sir is teaching us some of the simple ways to make toys,” gushes the 12-year-old. “I am going to make a toy for my little brother; he will definitely like it.”

Preethi Nair, mother of an eight-year-old attending the workshop, says some of the lessons are “very interesting with valuable lessons for us parents”. “Most of us spend hundreds of rupees in each toy we buy for our kids whereas one could make it themselves with everyday material. Also, it is a great way to spend time with your child.”


“The fourth edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale runs from 12 December, 2018 – 29 March, 2019.“
Venues are open every day from 10 AM – 6 PM.
Tickets are available for purchase for ₹100 at Aspinwall House.

Universal free entry every Monday.


By Air: Fort Kochi is 45 km from Kochi International Airport, Nedumbassery.
By Train: Fort Kochi is 13 km from Ernakulam Junction (South) Station and 16 km from Ernakulam Town (North) Station.
By Boat: Fort Kochi is 20 mins from the Ernakulam Boat Jetty and 10 mins from both Willingdon Island and Vypin Boat Jetty.
By Bus: Fort Kochi is 15 km from the main bus station in Ernakulam.

Many of the locations of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale are walking distances from each other (most are around 10 minutes or so).


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