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The Story of a Plate from Assam

31

Sustainability is a subject that has been close to my heart and I have always tried to contribute in my own little ways. Even if they are little things like switching off everything after leaving a room (sometimes, even when people are in the room) or holding off waste until I can dispose them properly.

When I was invited for Manas Spring Festival, little did I know that I am connected to this festival through the dishware that they served in. Not directly. But yet, there was a connection. I was interested but I had no idea about it until I came back and published my story on Manas Spring Festival.  Read my experience in Manas here>>  I was intrigued when I saw the plates and bowls at the food counter on the first day. I knew that the organizers were trying to promote sustainability but the plates/bowls totally blew my mind. That’s where most of the litter is generated and I was pleased to see the organizers keeping a conscious eye on it.

Photo Copyrights - Priyam Kakoti Bora (@nookandcorners)

Few months ago, I had applied for the YOU Start! NE workshop conducted by Dhriiti, The Courage Within to understand the basics of running a business before my foray into entrepreneurship and I was happy to have been selected. I had a wonderful time getting to know many  young entrepreneurs from North East India, exchanging information, giving suggestions on how we can improve and above all, motivating each other to stay strong. The earlier perception of having a steady, government jobs was clearly changing in North East India and it encouraged me to stay true to my passion.

When I posted my blog about my experience at Manas National Park, one of the Managers of the workshop, Debaleena saw my work and called me up excitedly as to how the plates over which the foods were served belonged to an organization, incubated by Dhriiti. This is when I came to know about Tambul Plates.

And I could not help being amused at how coincidentally I became a part of two organizations in a single festival. My curiosity led me to research more about Tambul Plates (with help from Debaleena as well) and I wanted to share a bit of their journey through my little blog.

About Tambul Plates:

An alumnus of the prestigious Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) in Gujarat, Arindam Dasgupta wanted to work in the Eastern India and chanced upon the idea of producing biodegradable plates from areca-nut sheaths when he received the same from South India through a relative. Since Assam is abundant in Areca nut plantations (it is called Tamul in Assamese), Mr Dasgupta saw the region’s potential to change the rural economy through disposable dishware, made from the areca nut sheaths. The journey took shape in Barpeta district (some part of it shifted to Baksha district now) in 2004 as it had the largest plantations of Areca Nut.

Photo Copyrights - Priyam Kakoti Bora (@nookandcorners)

Mr Dasgupta had also launched an NGO, Dhriiti – The Courage Within with his friends, Anirban Gupta and Nidhi Arora in 2004 with the aim to inspire and build entrepreneurs who can identify as well as convert opportunity into sustainable enterprises. One of those projects was to set up small manufacturing units of plates and bowls, made from areca-nut sheaths in Assam. Within a short period of time, the village youth came forward to set up such units and Dhriiti helped in providing logistical support and training to these youth. However, Mr Dasgupta realized that the commercial model was the only viable way of creating employment through this business and hence set up Tamul Plates Marketing Pvt Ltd (TPMPL) in 2010 to look after the marketing and other aspects of the business.

TPMPL is now also in the business of selling the plate-making machines, rather than procuring expensive machines from the manufacturers. These machines are designed to run on LPG as well as Electricity. They also take care of packaging and quality-testing the products for the plate-makers before shipping it off to their markets in New Delhi, Mumbai among other regions. These leaf plates have promoted 110 areca-nut leaf plate production units and generated employment for more than 2000 rural youth while reducing pollution from plastic and styrofoam plates by over 100 tonnes since its inception.

Read about how Sustainability was a part of Manas Spring Festival here. >>

How life changed after Tambul Plates:

  • Moniram Narzary was a carpenter with limited means to sustain his family. But his decision to try out the Areca-nut leaf plate production through 2 machines paid off well and he is now earning a decent income. He has also given employment to his villagers and  dreams of expanding his business further.
  • Dinesh Narzary runs a tea-shop in his village in Bodoland Territorial Administrative districts (BTAD) and earns additional income by supplying sheaths to TPMPL. He can now afford to spend luxuriously on festivals and send his children for training outside his district.
  • A mentally challenged youth, Ramani Dewri can now provide for his family and regained his confidence as he rose up in his role in raw materials operations.
  • With little or no skills, Dhanada Kalita mastered her job in Dryer operations and is the sole bread-earner of the family after her husband’s demise.
  • Tapan Poddar was born with a deformed feet and low speech clarity, due to which he shunned himself from the society. But from an opportunity at TPMPL as plate cleaning staff, he rose in the organization to the role of Supervisor of packaging unit. He no longer feels differentiated based on his disability.

And many more… 🙂

Meanwhile, I am going to be on the lookout for more such places where I can find these sustainable, biodegradable plates from my homeland. While chomping on my Assamese breakfast of kettle pitha, banana and a cup of black tea.

Photo Copyrights - Priyam Kakoti Bora (@nookandcorners)

 


Note: All my photographs are copyrighted with all rights reserved. Please do not download/use my work and never for any commercial use without contacting me in advance for purchase or licensing rights.

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  1. Ketki Ketki

    It is so amazing when event organizers and festivals revolve around sustainability! I am so glad to see the seriousness increasing in many places on India. Great post.

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Yes, me too. And I am so glad that companies are evolving which help in both sustainability as well as uplifting the rural economy.

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Thanks a lot, Rupam. Do spread the message. Only if we join our hands together for sustainability, will we be able to save our planet.

  2. That’s such a nice initiative. High time we all
    Move towards sustainability!!

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      It is. And so much needed. I hope we all do realize the harm we are doing to our environments. Miss the good old days when food used to be served on plates made from Sal leaves on festivals.

  3. good to know sustainability work is done there. sad we live in metro cities rely so much on chemical stuff. and your post makes me want to visit Assam.

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      I hope you do plan a visit to North East India soon, Arpna. Time we stopped relying on chemical stuff so that the market shifts toward more sustainable options. 🙂

  4. I loved the name of your website. Is there any particular reason behind this name.

    The plates look real and I am sure it would definatly make the food more tasty just like how eating in banana leaf makes food more tasty than eating it in a plate. Eating in a natural material increases the taste of the food manifold.

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Thanks Aishwarya. That’s really sweet of you. I just love exploring stories behind nook and corners of a place. Started as my Insta handle, I love it so and here I am with the website. 🙂

      I agree with you. It tastes so much more delicious. Even on plates/bowls from Sal leaves, the food tastes so much better.

  5. Lady,you beautiful lady, you have no idea how proud you made me feel while reading this blog. If only we make suck endeavors and make use of organic resources to an extent to cut down on many menaces and uplift people’s life! I wish you more success.

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Thanks a lot, dear. I am so glad that you are proud of it too. Tried my best but I still have a long way to go. I hope we all can shift towards sustainable options soon. Spread the word! 🙂

  6. This is a very inspiring story, Priyam. At a time when there is so much need for alternatives to plastic in India, we need these initiatives very much. Thanks for sharing about this sustainable alternative. I hope the entrepreneurs are very successful in promoting it. One place where we desperately need biodegradable cutlery and plates are in shopping malls and take-away restaurants.

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Thanks Priya. I am so happy to have found these start-ups myself which are not only benefiting nature but also uplifting the rural economy. I heard some restaurants are picking up sustainable options for their dishware and I am hopeful that the others will pick up soon too. 🙂

  7. Love this! One of my favorite places at home uses plates, bowls and even utensils like this. I wish everyone would do there part a little more to help our Mother Earth.

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Thanks Retha. I feel the same too and I think the change is coming. Gradually but it is coming. I hope we are not late though.

  8. Always when I travel I love to try different dishes and to see what specific destination can offer 😀
    This looks really amazing but I don’t know am I brave enough to try it 🙂

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Oh you will. This is just a plate, made from sheaths of areca nut tree instead of using paper/plastic/thermocol. Not only are these sustainable, they are bio-degradable and can help in saving the earth from being piled up with more litter. 🙂

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Thanks Sasha. It is indeed. 🙂

  9. Great story! We need to make changes like these everywhere. I’m really happy to read that slowly slowly things are starting to change and even companies and restaurants are making these changes too. Keep it up!! 🙂

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Thanks Tony. I totally agree with you and happy to see that many of us are now open to sustainable options in everything. We are in grave danger of living in an unhealthy environment if we don’t regulate our waste.

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Thanks Rumi. This is the beginning; I hope we all start walking in the same direction towards sustainability so that we can save the earth for the future generation.

  10. We are always sticklers of trying local food. This one looks really delicious.

    The Tambul plates are choices in the right direction when it comes to sustainability, considering they’re made of organic and natural materials. They look nice too!

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      The food was indeed delicious and tasted even more better on these plates. I hope you can try both soon. 🙂

  11. These are so amazing! I love that more travelers are becoming more environmentally conscious and focused on sustainability.

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Thanks Meygan. I hope us travelers become a huge force in spreading the message.

  12. That is a fantastic idea! I don’t even know what areca nut sheaths really are but it seems like they’re brilliant at creating plates sustainably and are quite durable too! I am so happy to see people being creative and environmentally conscious.

    • nookandcorners nookandcorners

      Yes, Medha. Many such initiatives have started but due to low awareness, they are not utilized to their full potential. I hope all of us use them in our festivities/celebrations instead of paper/plastic/thermocol plates. Increased demand will also enable the producers to sell these plates at an affordable range, suitable for all.

  13. Wow, this post is pleaѕant, my sister is analyzing these kinds of things, thus I am going to convey her.

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