February 21, 2022
The kitchen is her laboratory, and the home is her workshop. Priyadarsini Das is a homemaker from Bhubaneswar who has revolutionized the concept of bamboo-based sustainable jewellery and is popularly known as the Green Queen of Odisha. Her innovation on making solid bamboo-based jewellery, methods of treatment, use of other eco-friendly materials and application of natural dyes, tribal and Pattachitra painting has opened a new line of business, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for thousands of people, particularly women.
As we celebrate this International Women’s Day, her story could inspire thousands of homemakers and girls to help them break all odds in order to do something for their better living. Here is a brief interview with Ms Priyadarsini Das.
Please tell me something about your journey so far
I always thank God for making me a woman. Much of my journey so far is guided by my mother, who is no more in this world. But her teachings and training are always with me. Whatever I learned from her until she was alive is enough for me in expressing my womanhood and is probably the force behind my happiness. I am content. As a child, with a limited family income, we were taught to love whatever we had and lived with it. During my school days in Ravenshaw Girl’s High School, Cuttack my friends could hardly make out my family’s financial well-being as I would always be seen happy with my belongings I learned art and craft from my mother and started following her footprints.
I got married in the year 2001 and went to Delhi, lived there for about five years. I have seen many ups and downs in life as we did not have a stable income, but we managed to overcome swiftly. As a craft enthusiast, I used to make my own bamboo jewellery at home for personal use. I loved that more than even gold or any other precious ornaments. But my husband would not like it, as the idea was ludicrous for him. Almost after 17 years of our marriage, one fine morning he found an old bamboo-jewellery earing that I made during my Delhi days.
I do not know whether he realized my potential or his love for eco-friendly fashion, but he insisted I go for bamboo-based jewellery again. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! I felt so happy and started aligning my hand and mind to live with my passion. I also realized that whatever I was doing long back, that has become more relevant today. To go ecofriendly, a terminology I did not know until recently. Rest is what you see me doing today.
What is the primary motive behind your new initiative?
To a significant extent, the motive is like living with your passion. But at the same time, I always have a concern for the forced migration of people, particularly women and girls from our state in search of livelihood. I remember a scene at Surat Railway station while coming from Delhi. You could easily make out the plight of the precarious conditions of millions of Odia people working outside. I saw the crowd was being treated like cattle by the Railway Police while they were trying to board the unreserved compartments.
My self-respect as Odia and as a woman did not allow me to sleep for years. It troubled me always. At the same time, as a nature lover, I found a reason in my passion with the objective of skilling women on sustainable jewellery making.
What is your product line?
I primarily focus on eco-friendly jewellery making. Make solid bamboo bangles, necklaces, earrings, back clips, and waistbands. During festive seasons, I also make Rakhees, wristbands and occasionally make eco-friendly trims and accessories like buttons, clips, and hangings for ethnic garments.
What materials do you use to make your jewellery line?
Bamboo is my all-time favourite. But, I also blend other materials like terracotta, glass, stone, oxidized metals, handloom fabric, different natural seeds, and wood beads made from Neem, Bael, Karanj, and Tulsi to make my products.
I also use natural dyes on bamboo and fabrics jewellery. Turmeric beat root, onion peels, pomegranate rind, Heena, mango leaves, spinach, tea, coffee, etc. are my favourites and are easily available to experiment with. My kitchen is my laboratory and the home is my workshop.
I have seen many of your jewellery decorated with Pattachitra and Tribal paintings. Can You Elaborate On It
Yes, I always try to use our cultural symbols and traditional art forms to give it an Odia identity. Pattachitra and Tribal paintings, particularly Soura painting, enhance the aesthetic and cultural value of my products.
What is the name of your initiative or venture? And how do you want to take it further?
It’s a name that rhymes with my name Priyadarsini. The name, I have chosen is “Ecodarsini”, which signifies someone who shows the eco-friendly path. However, I never thought of doing business with my initiative. Rather, I thought of skilling young women in rural and tribal areas for self-employment and enterprise development. Now I have decided to do both training and business in order to popularize the art and sensitize more people about the benefits of eco-friendly jewellery.
How much one can earn if she learns the skills and starts doing eco-friendly jewellery?
This depends pretty well on the level of skills, efficiency and creativity of an individual. But on average, one can easily make Rs 20000/- per month sitting at home by making bamboo-based eco-friendly jewellery. If we can connect them to the right market and build the required linkages, then they can obviously earn more.
What would you like to recommend to homemakers who are willing but yet to start something like yours?
Look, God has given us life and circumstances. Close your eyes; open it, and you will see opportunities. The demand for eco-friendly products are rising, be it fashion, food, or furniture. And, we are surrounded by eco-friendly resources. Just need to find the gap and get started. There is no age bar and you should not have any inhibitions about starting late. You can start your enterprise at any age if you are passionate.
In your opinion who you think is happier – a working woman or a homemaker?
I am one of the happiest homemakers, as I love my home and always looked after the people living at my home. All women need to be happy as they maintain balance in society. We need to change our perception and this absurd differentiation between working women and homemakers. Let it get rid of this stereotype.
Remember, all women are working and all need to be happy. For me, home is also like a small enterprise and successfully managing your home needs great acumen, perseverance, strength and compassion. So, the term working woman should not be reserved only for those women who leave their homes and work for a salary. It’s all about loving and living with your creations. Happiness is just an outcome.
International Women’s Day is approaching, what would be your message to women of our state.
I feel incompetent to send any message to all women. Since you have asked, my message is particularly for women who are passionate but have yet to start something because of various reasons like lack of family support, education, finance, language, communication, region, social background etc. Please bury your weakness if any and go for a new beginning. Count my words, once started, you would cross all hurdles and change the course of your life and living. Empowerment should come from within, and the outer world just creates a belief system around you. Celebrate this International Women’s Day with your new initiative.
Interview By- Saayak Karmakar, Resident Editor, Interview Times
Image Source- Interview Times
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