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Made In Channapatna

Made In China Channapatna

Her name is 'Saubhagya' meaning the Fortunate one. Can any work be more satisfying and fortunate than a work which brings smile on the face of any crying child? This is Saubhagya's story.

Saubhagya was born is a humble farming family. Married 7 years ago to Nagendra, she stays in Channapatna with her family . Channapatna is a town  located 60 km south-west of Bangalore, on Bangalore-Mysore state highway. In the native language (kannada), Channapatna is also called as "Gombegala  Ooru" meaning toys town in English. These toys are manufactured in traditional or advanced small scale industries.  This traditional craft is protected as a geographical indication (GI) under the World Trade Organization, administered by the Government of Karnataka. The origin of these toys can be traced to the reign of Tipu Sultan who invited artisans from Persia to train the local artisans in the making of wooden toys. 

Unlike most of the Lacquer ware artisans of Channapatna who continue their family tradition by joining the industry, Arvind adopted the profession by choice. He worked in a small toy manufacturing unit before starting his toy factory out of his savings.  Saubhagya's day begins with cooking food for her family of 5 and sending her 5 year old son Yuvraj to school; she finishes her household chores by 11 in the morning and joins her husband in making toys. A very proud Nagendra recalls how Saubhagya learnt the techniques of wood craft within two months of her marriage wherein it takes years for newbie's to master the art. Now her nimble fingers do better craft than him or his employees says the proud husband looking at the blushing wife.

Can there be a story written about Saubhagya without underscoring what she is best at, Toy/wooden craft making

Raw materials & tools :
Hale wood is the basic raw material. It is extremely close grained, moderately hard and easily turned into fine shapes by hand or machine. Lac is an encrustation produced by the insect Technadria lacca ,its used for coloring. Talegiri pine leaf is used for polishing, it imparts a translucence to the finish. Sand paper gives the wood a soft finish. The most important tool is the lathe. A power lathe has a head stock that consists of a revolving axle attached to two belt pulleys. The production time decreases considerably on the power lathe as both hands are free to operate turning tools. A variety of cutting tools are used to shape the turning wood including chisels, gauges and snappers. Hand saws and axes are used to prepare the wood to be turned.

The process:
The preparation of hale wood for lac-turnery begins with seasoning. Logs are cut into small billets .The edges of the seasoned billets are then chiseled and superfluous wood is removed until a cylinder is formed. Cutting tools are applied to the revolving piece of wood so that thin continuous chips are scraped off. Once the desired shape is formed, it is sanded with sandpaper while it is still turning, until the surface is smooth and uniform. At this stage the article is ready to be lacquered(colored with Lac). The quality of the final product depends on the skill with which lacquer is applied to the turning wood. A lac stick of the chosen color is pressed to the revolving wood. The friction causes the lac to melt and spread uniformly over the area on which it is applied. Final finishing is done using a screw pine leaf to help spread the lac on the turning wood and polish the object. Buffing lends a translucency to the finished product. The lacquered article is separated with a cutting tool and removed from the lathe. At this point, some articles are further ornamented with paint.

The couple came to know about Ujjivan through their neighbor who had taken loan from Ujjivan. They got their first group loan of Rs. 8000 in 2009. Since then she took two more group loans amounting to Rs 15000 each and Rs. 30,000 in her fourth cycle. After finishing four group loan cycles she graduated to individual lending by getting Rs. 70,000 which she used for buying 4 more lathe  machines for her second manufacturing unit. Summarizing her  Journey in Ujjivan  from Rs. 8000 to Rs. 70,000  she says ''My standard of living and business have grown constantly with each increase in the loan amount , Ujjivan trusted me when it gave me a loan amount which was more than double the previous cycle loan amount (Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 70,000). I will never break Ujjivan's trust ''. She is expecting a loan amount exceeding Rs. 100000 in her next loan cycle.

 Saubhagya and Nagendra  with the help of their savings and loan amount in the due course of time have set up two workshops with 8 & 4 lathe in each. They employ 4-10 craftsmen depending on the orders received. They sell the items to the local suppliers who in turn export most of the craft to countries like Japan, Germany , US etc.. The Average earning of the family after deducting cost comes to Rs. 25 to 30 K per month. Replying to why Don't they open a lacquer ware  shop which would considerably increase their income Nagendra replies  ' I am a crafts man not a businessman'. The family is happy with the work they are doing and leave it on their son to choose his profession.

The toys /wares  are made of wood - that makes them naturally germ resistant. Vegetable and natural dyes make it lead and chemical free, a major relief compared to Chinese toys .The old world has not able to with stand the onslaught of the modern world. In the era of GI Joe and Barbie a humble wooden toy stands witness to the paradigm shift that has occurred in the Global Economy. One can't help but notice the bright purple and pink toys that seem to have invaded the stores. Ask where these are from and you will be promised that they are locally made. But these toys are from China. It doesn't take a trained eye to distinguish the toys from those made locally. The wood in the Chinese toys appears slightly unfinished, and the cheaper paint of Chinese products lacks the sheen of the Channapatna toys' lacquer coating. with a child being born every two second in India, the toys of Channapatna should never meet an end.

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