In my previous post, I shared about us going to the elephant orphanage at Pinnawela.
Along the little colourful lane inundated with local artisans vying with each other to sell their colourful leather and fabric, there is one elderly gentleman who stands in front of a very very modest looking house-like structure, distributing hand-outs. He came to us, handed out the flyer. K looked at it and exclaimed, “You will like this!”
Upon seeing that we were interested, the man told us that this is a small cottage industry that makes paper out of elephant waste. Imagine paper as a by-product of animal waste! We were thrilled. He offered us a tour for free!
As soon as we stepped in, we saw a girl sewing pages together to form a book, sitting by the side of the verandah. I cannot tell you how ecstatic I felt when I realized that I will be spending a few minutes with one of my most favourite things in the world – paper!
A cheerful lady clad in a muklti-coloured kurti came to us and said that she will take us around. We followed her.
They had small little workstations that were set up in the order of the paper-making process. She first took us to a table where they had a pile of elephant poo. No need to gross out because all the leaves and fibre they eat is pretty much what comes out.
They just sift through and make sure they are using only the fibre and no other foriegn object is present. Once they are done with that,
they submerge it in water and some added solution in a big trough for a few hours. The pile becomes damp and soggy and is crushed nicely to form a paste.
Once it attains this modge-podge kind of consistency, they run it through the press and lay out the damp sheets to dry.
They make coloured paper as well. To make coloured paper they use dyes and colour the fibre from stage 1 with the colour.
And then, they soak it and run it under the press and get coloured sheets.
You know what they say about a coconut tree, the kalpavriksh? It is such a noble tree that every part of it has a use. I have read poems where poets advocate man to be like a coconut tree in life. And that was my first thought when I went through this process.
If the process looks simple, it is because it is! And precisely why we must advocate use of such paper. The paper has a very vintage, handmade feel to it, lovely for making bookmarks, cards, sketching, making calendars, diaries, envelopes – so much!
After the tour, we went to their sale area where they had several products on display.
We did buy a 2013 calendar, some sheets of paper and a travel companion. The big diaries are beautiful and pricey as well. Some of the binding is of whole cinnamon stuck together as the cover. The book smells heavenly !
If you are wondering whether the place would be anywhere close to a stinkpot, you cannot be more wrong! It is well maintained and you have to remind yourself that is is best-of-waste. Well, not waste anymore, really!
When we went to India, K kept telling my MIL how I have elephant dung in the bag in which we got some gifts for her. It was hilarious to see her cute expressions. We teased her by putting some of this paper next to her and then going on the greentouch.
But seriously, this was one amazing learning for us! We took their contact numbers before leaving. Eventually, we did spot a few shops selling this paper but watching the process was ultimate! 🙂
Let’s go on and see what more excitement Kandy held for us! So long! 🙂