Eco-friendly Life & Style

My eco-friendly bamboo lunchbox from Manipur

The tiffin carrier made Zogam bamboo work in Manipur   | Photo Credit: Suanlian Tangpua

Admit it. The ideal tiffin box is never a click away. Especially if we are looking at healthy, sustainable options to pack our food in; something that is made from natural material, is sturdy and also looks good.

When the lockdown slowed life and business in Manipur’s Churachandpur district (60 kilometers from Imphal), 27-year-old V Ginkhanpau decided to utilise the time to fine-tune and finalise the look for the bamboo tiffin carrier he and his team had started work on. Ginkhanpau, (people at work and in his village call him Pau) is a self-trained bamboo artisan who started Zogam Bamboo Works in 2014. His business partner Golan Naulak joined him in 2017.

Ginkhanpau at his workshop in Manipur

Ginkhanpau at his workshop in Manipur   | Photo Credit: Suanlian Tangpua

Pau says he was eight years old when he lost his parents; so he utilised whatever skill he had to earn a living. “I became a bamboo artisan because that was the only work I knew. I started doing bamboo craft with some of my friends. That is when I discovered I was good at it. When I grew up, with the little money I saved, I went to Assam to train in bamboo handicraft at Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre (CBTC) at Byrnihat (19 kilometres from Assam’s capital Dispur and 500 kilometres from Imphal).”

Lockdown enterprise

With ample time available, the Zogam team worked on the prototype and rolled out a few handmade bamboo tiffin carriers. Pau says before they got busy with this, the team used to create bamboo decorative and utility objects. “We make pens, stationary holders, cups, mugs and trays. We also make bamboo hairclips and containers (for salt, raw dal and other dry kitchen items),” he says. “When we started working on the tiffin carriers, we were very excited. Golan is a policy researcher who works with community-led initiatives in the Northeast, discussed the tiffin box with an IFS officer. By this time we had also sold a few pieces locally in Manipur,” said Pau.

He also takes pride in saying, “The final product was eye-catching and people loved it. They are priced at ₹599 and ₹799 and can be ordered on Facebook.”

Golan Naulak

Golan Naulak  

Golan says, “The thing with bamboo is that there are too many stakeholders and almost every idea is a repeat. Pau made this wonderful tiffin carrier and we were more than happy to work and improvise on it. I joined Zogam to help them work with research and marketing. I took the tiffin carrier to National Bamboo Mission and Manipur Forest Department. They were more than willing to help us.”

What pushed these tiffin boxes into the limelight was a tweet by Indian Forest Service official Sudha Ramen.

The team uses all types of bamboo. “Because we work with our hands and not machines, we use the bamboo that is comfortable to work with. For the tiffin carriers, however, we use dragon bamboo (locally called gomi, its circumference is about 17 to 20 centimetres) for the boxes and other varieties for the stand or holder. The other bamboo that can be worked with are gotang, mau and gova,” explains Pau.

FAQs galore

The bamboo tiffin box by Zogam bamboo work

The bamboo tiffin box by Zogam bamboo work   | Photo Credit: Suanlian Tangpua

Even as the boxes create a buzz on social media, the team is busy addressing customer concerns. The most common query is: “Can we replace steel with this tiffin box?” Says Golan, “It is an eco-friendly alternative. We are not promoting our bamboo boxes as a replacement to traditional tiffin boxes. The other concern is about the method of treatment for the bamboo. After cutting the bamboo, we treat it in our own traditional or local way, without any chemicals. The processes include storing water in the bamboo and keeping it immersed in natural water bodies such as a pond or small river for some days or weeks. After this, we use it to make the tiffin box.”

The team will now be helped by experts, to incorporate a copper or steel sheet in the inner lining of the boxes. “All thanks to IFS officials,” adds Golan.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 8:53:05 AM |

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