‘Thande thande paani se nahana chahiye’ I could hear the children singing. It was a hot summer day. I had just returned home from work early in the evening and was standing in the balcony watching my son and his friends about eight to ten of them playing on the road and singing. It was summer holidays and they were having a good time playing nothing in particular. We were housed in a colony, so all the boys and girls would gather on a road to play or go around on their bicycles as there was no dedicated play ground and any vacant plot became their ground for playing. It was scorching heat and while watering the balcony garden I took couple of mugs of water and threw it towards the sky which fell like rain drops on them. Children were thrilled and they continued to sing and dance under the artificial shower of rain. What with the fresh smell of quenched earth and respite from the oppressive heat children were happy to be drenched and demanded that I do it again and again. They then went onto explore how little droplets of water would evaporate in no time, how the earth immediately felt cooler, smelt the fragrance emanating from dried earth as soon as it was sprinkled with water and that no fragrance could be smelt once the earth had become wet. They then had a heated debate over who and why they preferred potable drinking water from mud pots over the fridge. They wanted to know what else could be done with the mud pots as they had seen me using old mud pots to plant in the garden. I then showed them in my kitchen two mud pots placed one inside the other to keep vegetables and fruits fresh and narrated them how I got the idea from a science fair that I had attended long ago during my school days. An exhibit there had created a refrigerator using two mud pots placed one inside the other to keep vegetables and fruits fresh. A small pot was placed inside a bigger pot about an inch of space between them filled with sand. Water was poured into the sand just enough to wet them and and kept in a well-ventilated place which enabled evaporation so that the vegetables and fruits kept in the smaller pot remained fresh at least for few days. They even noticed that the kitchen was cooler surrounding the pot, saved electricity and to top it all they relished the smell of the earth! The kids then went away chatting happily and demanded the artificial rain every day till the summer ended and this became a routine not just through that summer but in subsequent summers until all of them had turned teenagers.
With a jerk I came back to the present day. The article on Mitticool had taken me down my memory lane. While browsing through the internet on Earth Day I had come across an article on Mansukhbhai Prajapati, a potter from Gujarat who had created a refrigerator made entirely of clay that consumes no electricity and keeps fruits and vegetables fresh for many days. How he arrived at this concept was interesting and inspiring. Mansukhbhai hails from a potters’ family and studied only
till class ten. His family lost almost everything during the fateful earthquake of 2001 in the Kutch region. A local newspaper published the news on earthquake with a photo feature caption reading ‘broken fridge of poor’. This caption ignited a thought in him to create a fridge which does not need electricity and could be used by masses. It took him painstaking three years journey to come up with the right soil and design to create the fridge. Earlier to this, he had worked in roof tiles manufacturing where the tiles were manufactured using a press. He had replicated the same idea to manufacture earthen pans and hot plates (tava) which was what their family business was but now in bulk. His creative thinking led Mansukhbhai in creating a fridge and the rest as they say is history. Today his Mitticool has been covered by Forbes Magazine.
So, what actually makes people like Mansukhbhai think and do? Given his circumstances, he broke ‘set’ – to restructure the problem not only to seek new solutions but to also see things in new, more interesting ways. He had to become creative in order to survive and thrive.
Over the last couple of centuries thanks to industrialisation more and more people have moved away from rural to urban establishments in search of jobs and better lives. The emergence of new technology has changed face of everything around us; the way we think, we socialise, we play, we interact, we travel, you name it and you will see for yourself what you did say even 10 years back seems redundant. However, the list of challenges we face today is different and multi-fold: we are experiencing extreme dense population in few chosen cities, wide chasm between the haves and have-nots; mismanagement and carelessness with respect to limited natural resources; food production in terms of both quality and quantity in order to feed the ever-growing population; large scale ill effects of man-made pollution; plastics destroying the fine ecological balance; the growing climate crisis which is a reality and on and on and on. These problems are a constant reminder that we can neither live apart from nature nor ignore it. But, we are still rooted in the old established ways of thinking and educating our children; it has not been able to keep pace with the advancement in technology which has a direct influence on our society and economy. How ironic is that!
In order to address these problems, we are in dire need of a generation who can sense them, search for plausible and imaginative solutions with a passion and commitment. The ONE aspect that we human beings differ radically from other animals is we have the ‘power of imagination’. The power of imagination empowers us with abundant unlimited powers of creativity. Creativity is not confined only to artistic fields like music and dance, theatre, arts and crafts. Creativity is in all human
endeavour. Creativity like other skills can be fostered to encourage children to learn more effectively and apply their creative thinking to the problems that they might face in the future. For this we need original thinkers, different point of view, breaking out of the mould, recombining ideas or see new relationships among ideas. Today, creativity and imagination are not options but an urgent necessity. More than anything else it is this uniqueness about us that makes us humans, right? Isn’t it time to unleash this ‘creativity’ to better our lives then?
Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun. – Mary Lou Cook
Out of Our Minds – by Ken Robinson