Published: 11th December 2019
This lady from Mysuru can tell you how to use bottle gourds grown at your home
Seema Prasad carves handicrafts from 48 varieties of native bottle gourd available in Mysuru, thus giving underprivileged women and school dropouts a steady source of incom
Banning plastic is an emerging ‘green trend’ in the country; states like Kerala have even gone the extra mile to make the use of all kinds of plastic illegal. Mysuru resident Seema Prasad of Krishikala, who echoes the same sentiment, has found an unlikely alternative to plastic in the humble bottle gourd. But how exactly can a vegetable replace plastic? "I make various handicrafts, containers and storage vessels out of the thick skin of bottle gourd. Earlier, farmers believed that growing bottle gourd would not yield any profit as not many customers bought this ‘not particularly tasty’ vegetable. Now, they have started understanding its value and they have started growing it in surplus. Recently, a family built a new home in Mysuru and decided to design a plastic-free kitchen in their home. They ordered all types of containers, bowls, cuttleries and other vessels which I created from bottle gourd. Now, they store even grains in these containers,” says Seema.
Krishikala is an initiative of Sahaja Samrudha spearheaded by Seema and her husband G Krishna Prasad. The organisation has been working to create awareness about organic farming among farmers and also to preserve some of the essential crops in Karnataka which are on the verge of extinction. On a visit to Sri Lanka, they saw bottle gourds being used as interior decorations in hotels and homes. Similarly, on another visit to Tanzania, she and her husband were surprised to know how people from the indigenous community made these beautiful 'bottle guard handicrafts' and sold them for a decent price. "I literally sat down with these people to understand how they make handicrafts out of this vegetable. During this phase, I realised that the bottle gourd in Tanzania and Sri Lanka were not only huge but the skin was thicker – much different from the ones we grow in India. Some gourds weighed more than 8 kg! It becomes easier for them to give the desired shape and size as they don't break easily. Krishikala started making handicrafts out of bottle gourd in 2017. And this art has become an important part of our work these days."
This tissue holder is uniquely designed and the latest product of Krishikala. It can be placed on your dining table or the dressing table
It all started when Seema, who enjoys a good relationship with local farmers in Mysuru, encouraged them to start growing wild bottle gourds. She explains, "They were shocked when they heard this as these wild gourds do not sell at all. Usually, when farmers have to sow seeds and grow crops, they burn all kinds of waste plants that grow in their fields. They also burn or weed out huge wild gourds as no one consumes them. I told them that I absolutely need these bottle gourds and I would pay them `10 for each gourd. They agreed to it. They did not take it seriously and in the first yield, we got around 700 of them. However, in the second yield, we got around 5,000 plus gourds. Later, we told some of the grazers to collect these gourds. Once, one of the grazers collected around 6,500 gourds and we paid Rs 10 for each of them which came up to a handsome Rs 60,500. Not just him, even we were happy to receive such a huge stock to make different products." With a ‘revolutionary’ two years having gone by, at present she has a stock of 16,000 bottle gourds which will be converted into various products.
Apart from helping farmers, Seema has empowered women and some school dropouts find employment. "We are not professional artists and we did not know how to carve products from bottle gourd. So, for the first year, I decided to hire professional artisans but the amount they charged was not within my budget. For example, a small mobile phone holder would cost us `400. Though the customers liked our creativity, they found it too expensive. That's when I took things into my own hands. With the help of several women in our locality, we started designing these handicrafts in different shapes and sizes. We would watch a few videos on YouTube and try them out. After a lot of trial and error, we gradually became hands-on with the art and now, we can do almost everything. From small bowls to interior decorative pieces, we create it all by hand," says Seema. She pays them a monthly salary which depends on the products they make. The women can also sell these products themselves.
Containers can be used to store food grains that will keep them fresh and away from pests
When asked about the response from people, she gushes, "The response has been great. During raksha bandhan, we decided to make some eco-friendly rakhis from bottle gourds and we got over 2,000 orders. Similarly, during Diwali, we made eco-friendly lamps. Now, for Christmas, we are making some bells and other decorations for Christmas trees and hope that people will like it." Krishikala has stores across Mysuru and people can also buy them online from their website. Their prices are as low as `150 for a pen stand and it increases based on the type of product.
You can buy any of these products from their website: krishikala.in or visit their stores located in Mysuru
Lamp shade created by Krishikala workers that can be used as a home decor
Christmas is here so buy these Santa Claus made from from bottle gourd