Since my childhood, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of creating ‘form utility,’ which drew my attention towards some of the experiences I’ve had being part of a middle class family. I consider myself lucky to grow up in a middle-class family structure because it was kind of a ‘creative factory’ for me. Every person whosoever was connected to us was another example of a management guru and a creative genius.
As far as I can remember those days, our family could not afford buying ready-made and branded furniture directly from showroom. Hence my father always used to insist on buying wood at the cheapest rate available and bringing in carpenters to make furniture out of it. I must say, he was perfect with his market research before taking a decision to buy anything, and he still does that.
Coming back to the Carpenter story, Gopalji (our seasoned carpenter) and his co-workers used to come to our place and make furniture within the span of 10-15 days. The sight of watching these people at work was fascinating for me, and observing the process of moulding raw wood to something useful in the stretch of 15 days was worth my patience. I remember spending my after- school time sitting with them and learning carpentry at my level. Gopalji used to hand me over the waste wood and some adhesive to create something useful out of it. Observing his skillful hands going through the process of making wood surface even, until pasting plywood to the wood base and letting it dry for overnight; entire journey of creating something utilitarian out of nothing made me think of him as a creative genius. I learnt the art only because circumstantially we could not afford getting ready-made furniture at home. With a thought of carpentry as an art form, my curiosity led me to chat with Gopalji, asking him if this art had any connection to his family’s history and I was surprised to know that his ancestors were known for wood carving in Rajasthan. Today, all the lessons that Gopalji’s carpentry class gave me has made me efficient enough to create any basic furniture if needed. Carpentry was so captivating to me only because it was perhaps the first time I saw them as ‘makers’ or ‘creators’.
Middle-class upbringing had more gains for me. For example, reaching out to the nearest cobbler to get our worn out shoes repaired, was another experience packed with learning on how to renew value of something which appears to be of no use at that point. Cobbler usually used to sit by the roadside and show his skills of breathing new life into an old pair of shoe in full public view. After putting a patch onto the worn out portion and stitching it properly, he used to polish the shoe in a way that it used to appear all together anew. He then gave the shoe to try it out and let him know if further change is needed in order to make it feel more comfortable. There was a constant feedback mechanism running between the customer and cobbler, and he would keep probing until he gets to see complete satisfaction on customer’s face. He taught me one basic rule of business that only a truly satisfied customer would return to him if again the need arises.
Similarly, when a painter used to paint our house, he taught me different kinds of brush strokes and mixing of colors. Even before it was taught in my school, I learnt my lessons of getting secondary colors out of mixing primary ones at my home. Another man, whom I’ve seen scaling up his business from repairing punctures in bicycle tyres to selling bicycles now, intrigued me to watch him conduct the whole exercise of repairing punctures in my bicycle. He taught me to pump air in my bicycle tyres just to make me understand the importance of Re.1/- that I used to pay him every time as I was not aware that the task was so easy.
I feel life is a story weaved with all our observations compiled at one place.