Age has not diminished the zeal and zest that Malini Ananth has for life or the enthusiasm to tackle problems head on. The 65-year-old is vocal about everything — from fleecing of customers by telecom companies to open drains that breed mosquitoes.
In between all this, she manages to find time to pursue an interesting mix of hobbies like making electrified candles with motifs, bamboo baskets with idols in them, multipurpose holders, diyas, kumkum boxes and so on.
“My interest in crafts started around 12 years back. It was purely a hobby or rather a pastime to keep my mother engaged as she was bedridden while recovering from a fall,” says Malini. “With her inputs, I initially made greeting cards using handmade paper and other materials which would normally be passed off as trash by people. I made it just for fun but one of the boys in my building saw them and asked me for two dozen. He managed to sell them all and I felt a sense of happiness,” she reminisces. This interest in the arts runs in her family and has been passed down from generations. She remembers how her grandmother used to make carpets by braiding scraps of clothes even in her 92nd year and how her mother made a large picture of a peacock entirely from rice husk. Her newest acquired skill is decorating steel plates with beautiful ‘kundan’ stones to make unique wall hangings. “I usually make auspicious designs on them and a lot of people have evinced interest in these, saying that they believe these will bring them good luck,” says Malini. “I also make garlands for idols using nylon tape and pearl or gold beads which can be used within homes,” she adds.
“A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them that a Marwari boy taught me this skill of making garlands. I saw these hanging in front of his shop and I enquired about them because they were really pretty. When he said he had made them himself, I didn’t believe him initially because we still don’t associate such activities with men. Then he threaded the beads in front of me and I was amazed by his deftness. I asked him to teach me and he happily agreed,” she says.
Having lost her mother a few years back, Malini herself has problems in the form of disability and a damaged optic nerve but is not ready to give up fighting yet. “A lot of people have supported me till now. My brother Murali, my maternal uncle and his wife, my aunt and all those people who gave me a chance to exhibit my work to prove myself. It is difficult to sell handmade items as usually people only focus on the cost involved and not the effort the person has taken,” says the sprightly lady. “In spite of all problems, I want to continue creating something as long as
possible to keep my mother’s legacy alive.”