Upcycling, reusing, and repairing was very much a part of daily life in cultures across the world until the industrial revolution gave us the dream of convenience. The repair and reuse culture has especially been strong in India, and many rural regions still have it intact. Yakub Ali’s story exemplifies this beautifully.
Hailing from Sagarpur in Uttar Pradesh, Yakub Ali came to Vadodara in Gujarat four years ago looking for work. He has set up a handloom machine on which he upcycles old, torn clothes to blankets, sofa covers, doormats, and bed sheets, among other things. “This tradition has been going on since ages in my village. This machine is there almost in all the houses,” he says.
Upcycling comes in very naturally in cultures where there is a scarcity of resources or there is a basic value for the things one possesses. Learning the art as a child, Yakub has a mastery over making various items, and urban areas are now lapping up to the idea. “Many come for inquiry, but I usually gets three or four orders per day,” he says. He charges customers according to the number and the state of clothes and the item that needs to be made from them.
Yakub’s handloom machine, which he dismantled and brought from UP, costs around Rs 5,000 . There were people before him who came to Vadodara, and other places, and hearing that business was good, Yakub also ventured out. “The demand has increased since more people are getting to know this. And I want to continue doing this in the future,” he tells us.
For urban pockets, upcycling is a new trend towards sustainability and making conscious choices. And it is amazing how many of the solutions that the world has to adopt for a better future are the ones that were a natural way of life only a few decades ago.