Life & Style

Plantable seed pens sow a source of income for these differently-abled from Kerala

Paper pens made by Gopi V   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

While Gopi V from Chittur in Palakkad makes eco-friendly paper pens at home, his wife Ramani M and mother Devi C go on the hunt for seeds that go into the next batch of pens. “We usually collect the seeds from around my house that is surrounded by vegetation. I often use seeds of a variety of gulmohar that grows by our house. My motto is: one shade tree from my pen,” says Gopi.

A road accident 10 years ago rendered him paralysed from waist down. He recollects that day. “I was working at a workshop in Coimbatore then. I was returning from Erode when the cargo autorickshaw I was travelling in collided with a lorry. I sustained severe spinal injury,” he says. The 39-year-old today “keeps things going” thanks to his vocation of making and selling Nature-friendly seed pens, something he learnt from online tutorials.

Gopi V making paper pens

Gopi V making paper pens   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Gopi is among several differently-abled persons from Kerala for whom paper pens have become a source of livelihood. These functional ball pens, full of seeds, can be planted in the soil once the refill is empty. Apart from providing meagre but useful financial aid, it generates awareness about an eco-friendly lifestyle.

For Janeesh KK from Kumarakom in Kottayam, the vocation is an extension for his love of Nature and agriculture. Janeesh, who used to work as a toddy tapper, became wheelchair-bound after a fall from a coconut tree 10 years ago. “I make about 50 pens a day, but it is difficult for me to sit in the same posture for a long time,” he says.

He sources seeds with the help of friends from local societies that promote agriculture. “I prefer vegetable plants that produce quick yields such as snake gourd and ladies’ finger. Sometimes I go for varieties of spinach. These are easier to source,” he points out.

Janeesh K K making paper pens

Janeesh K K making paper pens   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In Kondotty, Mallapuram, Musthafa Paramban has moved beyond making paper pens to take training classes on the same for others who are differently-abled. “Classes are conducted under the aegis of local collectives and under Panchayat programmes,” he says, adding that however since the pandemic, he has been focussing more on making seed pens at home. Musthafa had sustained a spinal injury after a fall from an areca nut tree some years ago.

“I typically use seeds of the fast-growing agathi cheera (commonly known as vegetable hummingbird) and mullangi (South Indian radish). I make about a 100 pens a day and sometimes get bulk orders too,” he says. Mustafa’s pens come in three varieties — one using magazine paper and two other types from colourful craft paper, one with steep clips and the other without.

Gopi, Janeesh and Musthafa find buyers for their pens, which cost from ₹7 to ₹10 depending on the type, via Facebook and WhatsApp. The orders are couriered.

Anagha Madhu with her mother Priyaja Madhu

Anagha Madhu with her mother Priyaja Madhu   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Aided by her mother Priyaja Madhu, 23-year-old Anagha Madhu from Thrissur does her best with fashioning seed pens. It is not easy but Priyaja keeps at it patiently till Anagha, who has cerebral palsy, gets it right. “My only worry is what will happen to Anagha after my time. Every day, our endeavour is to empower her and impart vital training as much as possible,” says Priyaja. Anagha was first introduced to this craft by Handicrops, an organisation that coordinates empowerment programmes for the differently-abled with manufacturing eco-friendly products.

Aswin ER

Aswin ER   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Though he does not make paper pens himself, Ernakulam-based Aswin ER’s mission is to support himself and a few of his friends who are differently-abled, by selling the pens they produce. Visually challenged, Aswin makes use of GPS services in reaching his customers. “I can still move around and I want to help four of my wheelchair-bound friends — Selvan T, Anitha Reetha, Kavitha PK and Thangamani KP — who have spinal injuries. I collect the pens from them in bulk, say 500 or 1,000 at a time, to market them,” says Aswin. The profits are split among themselves.

Aswin, who holds a Masters in Political Science, says he struck upon the idea during his final-year exams when his scribe was using a paper pen. “It is better for the environment and a pen is something you would use in every household,” he says. Aswin’s customers include workers at various offices and bank employees.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 5:29:08 PM |

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