There’s magic of a different sort apart from abracadabra and hocus pocus and this magic is performed by a rare breed of human beings, who, with their innovative ideas and painstaking efforts make a difference to the lives of the less privileged!
Checkout The Retyrement Plan and you’ll know how the magic works. The Plan is a two-way innovative and inspirational concept from Mumbai-based Anu Tandon Vieira, who conjures up beauty out of waste! It’s simply unbelievable that a woman could single-mindedly transform used and thrown tyres, plastic bottles and a city’s waste into objects of beauty which could grace home, office and other spaces with elegance.
It’s hearteningly inspirational in that it has brought to life the rich, but hidden talents of a lot of traditional artisans who have given shape, style and substance to industrial driftwood.
Anu Tandon’s raw materials are used tyres, plastic bottles and discarded plastic. They are then made over by the ideas, artistry and know-how of this internationally renowned products designer, a postgraduate in textile design from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.
The Retyrement Plan, an enterprise which took off when Tandon turned 50, has within a short span of five years, acquired much fame at home and overseas too. The lady’s mantra for making a difference lies in the three words: Reuse, reduce and recycle. This magic formula which has brought so much of a qualitative difference to the lives of indigenous artisans, has fetched Tandon awards and accolades aplenty. Anu Tandon Vieira was bubbling with her convictions and visions for transforming lives as she chatted to Onmanorama.
How were you able to visualize beauty from cast off items like tyres and bottles?
I was working in Mumbai as a textile designer for over 25 years dabbling in classic and exclusive material like silk and linen. I had already started my love life with cast off items while still there. There were two reasons behind my compelling convictions. The first, was my deep sympathy for our Earth into the heart of which we were dumping endless tonnes of waste. Surely, I could do my bit to ease the earth’s burden. The second, was to be of some help to the hugely talented, but impoverished artistes and artisans of our land.
You have ample examples of both in a sprawling place like Mumbai. If you’ve been to Mumbai at least once you’ll be familiar with the frightening heaps of garbage lining the cityscape. Why not make a small difference to this? Why not do something to ease the burden of this dirt? And there I got my first glimmer of hope and idea too … from tyres dumped by the wayside.
What an ingenious name! Retyrement Plan!
This name is befitting in so many ways. Firstly, it denotes retirement. It’s all about items no longer in use, cast off, with tyre being the main member. There’s something else too. I’m 50 now. That’s the time when most folks go on a contemplative trip. What have I achieved so far? Was this what I had dreamt of, wished for?
I was also troubled by these questions when it dawned on that I had a long road ahead and there lay infinite possibilities which I could try out. I could do lot. My retirement was inching closer. So why not start something new? Why not a retirement plan?
How do you transform tyres and plastic with such beauty?
The first step is to collect the discarded tyres. They are then scrubbed into squeaky clean pieces and disinfected. The twined, rainbow colored threads which bind and cover the tyres come from the discarded material and fabric from Mumbai’s textile factories. The elaborate and colorful work is done by traditional craftsmen from Gujarat and Rajasthan. The ropes and threads wound round the furniture come from recycled plastic bottles and ropes. Bamboo is the other supporting product. It’s again craftsmen from Assam, Bengal and Bihar who are in charge of working with the recycled products. It takes just about a week to get a piece of furniture ready and the craftsmen get at least Rs 700 a day.
How does the Retyrement Plan work?
It’s a truly unique workforce. India is rich in traditional talent. It’s a land where the skill and wisdom of generations are put to good use. Take any medium … wood, metal, textile or leather; there’s no dearth of traditional talent. I’ve seen it all. But sadly, this tradition is on the wane and the know-how and skill too are dying. Take Mumbai for example. It’s rich in traditional skills. Add to this, talented craftsmen and artisans who migrate to the city seeking jobs. It’s a rich pool of talent that we have. However, it’s sad that the younger generation has chosen not to follow their parents’ trade. The system is such. We have not learnt to respect our craftsmen and artisans and their skills. We will realize the extent or depth of our loss only much later.
The Retyrement Plan was begun with the express intention of tapping this rich traditional talent pool. It’s just a small step towards helping the artisans and keeping their traditions alive. Is not marketing equally important?
I was quite aware of this reality. How we market our products, where we put them up for display, how they are made available are all vital issues to be addressed. We are deeply indebted to the net and social media for promoting our venture. It’s to the online markets that we owe special thanks. It’s through this medium that we and others seek out artists and craftsmen from even the remotest corner of our villages.
Do you see any such artistic possibilities in Kerala?
I’d been to Kollam and Alappuzha to weigh the possibilities of a joint venture with the Kerala Government. There are so many artisans here, so many talented women too. I’m willing to wait till someone opens up an avenue for an enterprise. If not, I shall find my way of doing things. That’s how one succeeds. That’s what life has taught me.