GANGTOK: January 2012
Introduced in the year 2005 the Soft Toy Making Section at the Directorate of Handloom & Handicrafts (DHH), Sikkim is a peaceful wonderland where all kinds of animals live harmoniously with each other. With much perseverance and skill the women here create look-alikes of domestic and wild animals including birds. These carefully made toys are somewhat exclusive as one cannot easily find these in the market. The products are in high demand in West Bengal, Bangalore and New Delhi. Recently the Red Panda soft toys were also exhibited during the Darjeeling Tea and Tourism Festival.
During a conversation with Sikkim Mail, the trainer cum in charge of the Toy Making Section, Prabir Roy says that toy making is not as easy as it seems to be. It takes years of practice and patience to create a look-alike toy. “Practice makes a man perfect”, he states.
With 25 years of toy making experience and having trained the students in almost whole of
the North, East and West Bengal, Roy thinks he still has a long way to go and more to learn.
Right now there are total of 25 women training under him out of whom 22 are paid workers and the rest 3 are students at the Toy Making Section itself. The students are granted a monthly stipend of Rs 200 while the paid workers get Rs 2500 to Rs 6000 (i.e. according to the number of toys they make), informs Roy.
“Earlier when I started it seemed like a tedious job, but initially with everyday training and practice it has become easier”, says Chuchenmit Lepcha, a paid worker. A hard worker and a keen learner Chuchenmit’s interest for toy making never fades, this might be the reason that she can create the smallest of small replicas of the animals with ease. She has been with the toys section since 2009 and she stands a good chance in becoming a trainer in the coming future, states Prabir Roy confidently, showing the one and only smallest look-alike piece of a Red Panda
holding a leaf made by his best student Chuchenmit.
Though the demand for these exclusive animal toys are in excess still DHH is not being able to fulfill all of it because of lesser work force. The numbers of trainees has decreased as compared to before, says Roy. Since being trained in this field is not a days’ job, hence people are reluctant to do so. While some want easy and fast money the rest get caught up with household chores, therefore they don’t get time to learn. Despite all these odds DHH has managed to make a sale of 10- 11 lakhs approximately during last year through the Toy Making Section. The skills
are not only helpful inside the training rooms but it goes for a lifetime helping the ladies to be self reliant.