The team has been busy working on some new designs at the Graminno Community Makerspace Workshop. They were eager to have us visit the workshop to see the new designs they had made. Both the designs maintain the values of the first chair designed by them. They are foldable, made from fallen wood collected from their land, and made without any metal joinery and hence outdoor friendly!
As we approached the village, we saw the fog settled in the river valley below and the sun rise casting a glow on the entire surroundings.
And just as we turned a corner, we were greeted by a peacock who seemed oblivious to the sound of the Jeep approaching.
Then we caught sight of the Graminno Workshop nestled in the wooded valley below. A pleasant cool breeze carried a waft of wood fires from the village home kitchens.
We parked the Jeep next to the cowshed across the road from the beautiful home of Mr. Mhabdi, that has become our favorite meeting place.
The team had already brought the new designs and kept them in the courtyard of Mr. Mhabdi's house. He was settled comfortably in the reclining chair, while Santosh from the Graminno team was sitting on the two seater sofa, chatting with the others who had gathered around.
The Graminno Reclining Chair
The first new design was the Graminno Reclining Chair. Specially designed based on request by a patron in Mumbai, who wanted a modified version of the standard Graminno Foldable Chair for use by her mother to sit in a reclining position.
This new design is also a foldable design, and made with fallen wood without any metal joinery. But this design is with a lower angle for the back to allow the person sitting to recline and sit, with adequate support for the back and a special head rest. It also has a provision for a hand rest that can be used to rest your hands while sitting, or to push yourself up while getting up from the chair.
For the chair was designed for the patron's mother, we requested Mrs. Mhabdi to try it out first. She is quite short in her stature, and we were concerned whether it would be comfortable for her. But when she tried the chair, she fit perfectly on it. Her legs were supported by the seat in an extended position, her back and head supported by the back rest and her arms comfortably rested on the hand rest.
Next was Mr. Mhabdi, who has a tall and lanky frame, quite contrasting with his better half. But luckily, he was instantly comfortable with the chair, as he had already tried it out before we all arrived, and was joking that this was a magnetic chair that you do not feel like getting up from, and could sit for hours!
The next person to try the chair was VK Bharadwaj, our rural technology expert and guide who is also a core member and founding volunteer of Graminno. VK too, approved the ergonomics of the chair and said that he particularly liked the fact that one could rest the head comfortably.
We then moved the chair to Mr. Mhadbi's favorite place on the side of his home where he stores his fire wood, and from where one can look across the fields and into the river valley.
Then Mr. Mhabdi and Shiva - Tushar's young and mischiveous son settled down to enjoy the morning view of the valley. Shiva loves to listen to Mr. Mhabdi's stories about the village - the leopard stories are his favorite!
The Graminno Two Seater Foldable Sofa
The second design was a two seater, foldable sofa. This was an extension of the single seater chair, that can be dismantled into two pieces but can seat two adults comfortably. This too, is made from fallen wood and without any metal joinery and hence suitable for outdoor use. The seat is made from woven coir rope, similar to the famous "charpai" design that is a signature of rural furniture.
The chair back rest is designed to tie cushions to. But for the cushions were not yet ready, they had tied a cloth for comfort.
The first trial was by Mr. Mhabdi and Mr. Karavade, both senior members of the Atale Gram Sabha, and who were key supporters and advisors of the Graminno project. As soon as they sat on the sofa, it was evident that they were comfortable, for they soon started chatting gaily about the brinjals that they were planning to harvest from their farms later today.
The next to try the sofa, or shall we say demonstrate the sofa was Tushar, who is the designer of this piece! He talked about why he chose to make the seat using woven coir rope. He said that if he had used wooden strips like the ones on the chair seats, the entire sofa would become heavier and more unwieldy to carry once dismantled. He said that he had learned the method to weave the coir from elders in the village.
Behind him was is young and mischivious son, Shiva - the darling of the village. Shiva rarely sits in one place. He is constantly running around the village homes located on the slopes of the river valley. You can often hear his mother Sapna screaming his name loudly in an attempt to locate him.
Then Avinash joined Tushar with his little daughter Avni. Avinash is the designer of the first Graminno chair, and he is currently working on some new and exciting designs that he has forbidden us to talk about till they are completed! Avni is a cute, shy kid that refuses to let go of her father's side!
And while they settled down in the sofa, VK surprised the kids by acting like a leopard growling to amuse the kids! VK is the kids' favorite uncle from Graminno. He keeps them entertained and is full of mischief much like Shiva!
Then it was time for tea and biscuits, graciously prepared by Mrs. Mhabdi for everyone. Mr. Mhabdi regaled us with more stories from the village. We all reminisced about Shivram baba (Khaire), the 90+ year old village elder who had inaugurated the Graminno workshop at the beginning of the year.
Unfortunately, we lost Shivram baba a few months ago, when he injured himself while working in his rice field and then refused to get treated, declaring that it was time for him to retire from life. He died peacefully and without an extended period of invalidity. He was our icon - working on the field till the day he died!
Finally it was time for a group photo of all the Atale villagers who had gathered together on this joyous occasion to release the new designs made by the Graminno team! The village is ever supporting to the project and the achievements of the team are a source of pride for everyone in the village!