Subid's Ahimsa toys are no panacea for waste crises, they kindle ideas

Subid's Ahimsa toys
There is nothing called waste, all things are materials, says Subid. Photo: special arrangement

Subid Ahimsa is a vagabond of sorts. He doesn't own a house or stay in one place for long. His job is to make toys out of discarded materials and share his craft with others. He earns a meagre sum through workshops and by selling the toys he makes. But what he has is the vision of a grandiose plan – a world without garbage.

When the M Des (Master of Design-product design) degree holder from IIT Delhi set out to achieve this dream years ago, he well knew the possible challenges on his path. A nature-lover, Subid strongly believes that it's the violence in humans that churns out the trash. So he adopted the theme of non-violence and calls his creations 'Ahimsa Toys'.

How did the idea of making toys out of trash strike?

After completing BTech, Subid K S pondered over the actual meaning of life and how his life should be. He didn't believe in what others said and didn't accept all that he read. After reading Mahatma Gandhi's 'My Experiments With Truth,' he started implementing such experiments in his life. It was the phase when Subid felt himself a waste and almost saw the end of his life. That's when he got a call from Padmasree Arvind Gupta, a scientist and Indian toy inventor, to work on his website.

While working for his website,, Subid learned that each material has its value. From thereon he laid down a middle path for himself to use waste materials to make toys and thereby earn a living. The idea was to share with children the knowledge of upcycling trash and let them have a different perspective on life.

Why Ahimsa toys?

“The concept was born out of the fact that people generally embrace violence to solve challenges they face. If it's a mosquito, the solution is to kill it. This approach is found in terms of used materials too. They are either dumped or destroyed. But what happens is that they become another problem,” says Subid. Thus, 'Ahimsa Toys' is a concept envisaged to make people, especially children, see things from the perspective of non-violence. That is what Subid aims to impart through the workshops and classes. “This would give them a different outlook towards materials. The drawback of the education system is that students are hardly given a chance to think and develop their own ideas. Instead, they are tasked with ingesting whatever the syllabi impose,” he says.

After engineering degrees from reputed colleges, Subid didn't opt to settle in with a secured job.

Subid earned his BTech degree in civil engineering from RIT, Kottayam, Kerala, and did his master's in product design from IIT, Delhi. “But I had a tough time when my mother, who had been supporting me, expired. Both my parents were teachers. Then I met Arvind Gupta and that turned my life in the direction where I am today,” he says.

In the meantime, he also participated in protests in Plachimada and Kudankulam. “I aspire that my life should be secured, not just for myself but for millions of others who live doing unconventional but virtuous jobs,” he says. “There are many talented artists out there who contribute immensely to art and culture. They all need security. The government and the system should envisage schemes towards that end.”

What he earns from selling toys and conducting classes and workshops is not enough to sustain himself. “My friends support me. Some like-minded artists are planning a developmental concept based on peace and 'Ahimsa'. People associated with activities conducive to prolonging life on earth like organic farming and so on are also being contacted and encouraged in this regard,” Subid explains.

Children bring materials to make toys

The enigmatic toy-maker usually carries very few materials with him as he goes places. Children are asked to bring materials from home. “Usually, I ask them to bring used pens, plastic bottles, burst balloons, old CDs, old calendars, newspapers and so on. I carry a box of toys I made, apart from some thread and marbles."

If the participants bring different materials, he asks them to think and make things out of their own idea. So when they return home they will be taking back toys and objects they have made. “There have been occasions when I have learned from them as well. I encourage their teamwork and their instinct to ask questions," he says.

Is toymaking the answer to managing trash?

“Never! I am not providing a single-step solution to completely do away with the trash. I am not teaching others to make toys simply for fun either,” quips Subid, “I am sharing my idea of seeing life and materials through the perspective of Ahimsa. They should think of ways to deal with the so-called waste around them. I am not a magician who provides a solution to all waste. Nor am I aspiring to be one.”

Subid says that people should collectively think of a solution. “It's the sad state of society that no thought or objective is encouraged in that direction,” he says. Not just children, grown-ups also take part in his classes when they ask for it. "Not many people are bothered about the impending dangers of piling up wastes on earth," he says and adds that only 10 per cent of humanity cares about the environment. "But they are not encouraged," he rues. According to Subid, love, tolerance and forgiveness in human minds are urgently needed to avoid garbage and restore nature's well-being.

How does he blend artistic skill and patience, with a sense of eco-responsibility, to make such toys?

“Yes, that is very important – the artistic taste combined with the sense of responsibility towards the environment. That's where my training in product design at IIT comes in handy,” says Subid. According to him the toys that are made should be beautiful enough to attract children. “Only then will they find their creations exciting and try to explore more and importantly, continue the practice to make it part of their life. They should strive to prolong nature's well-being,” Subid says.

In Subid's opinion waste is generated by those who are busy. “Look at the way people live in villages, there is no waste at all. The residue of one product becomes raw material for another. In the fast-paced life in the city, one gets no time to refill ink in a pen or get a leaf to wrap one's lunch, or even get a bag from home to buy groceries,” says the nature's advocate.

He opines that people have long discarded the culture of 'repair-and-use'. When an electronic gadget breaks down, the next option would be to buy a new one. “In my opinion, if we adopt the practice of repairing things and using them, we would find lesser e-wastes in our surroundings,” he says. For Subid the term waste is not real. They are all materials.

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