The Upaya team visited Dwijen Das and his family in Patla Village, Assam in the spring of 2014. Dwijen is an affiliate producer with Tamul Leaf Plates, and earns a living making disposable, biodegradable plates and bowls from fallen Arecanut (palm) leaves collected in his village. The Upaya team chatted with Dwijen as he and his son, Jituparna, delicately maneuvered leaves into the Tamul machines and stacked pressed plates against one wall.
The Upaya team enjoyed a conversation with Dwijen Das, an affiliate producer with Tamul Leaf Plates, who earns a living pressing fallen Arecanut (palm) leaves into disposable, biodegradable plates and bowls sold throughout India.
Q: How did you get started making Tambul Leaf Plates?
“Three years ago, I set up an [affiliate production unit] with two machines at my home here in Patla. Last year I added a third machine. Now the whole family is helping to make plates in addition to our work on the farm.”
Q: How has working with Tamul Plates helped you most?
“My wife, Kanchan helps by cleaning and drying the leaves. A few years ago she developed kidney stones that required surgery. We were able to use the money earned from the leaf production to pay the medical bills without any long term shocks to the family and she has since returned to full health.”
Q: How else have you spent the extra money earned making plates?
“I have built a sturdier house with a concrete foundation and pillars. I have also expanded it from two to four rooms so the family has more space.”
Q: What comes next?
“My son Jituparna has dreams of expanding the unit and employing day laborers from the village.”
Q: What does this work mean to you?
“I’m happy to fulfill the needs of my children. I don’t think about myself. My son has taken on a lot of responsibilities. For example, he planted a crop of potatoes this year that’s expected to bring in a good profit. I also have a savings account for each of my children and put 300 rupees away into each of them every month.”