Tuesday, October 20, 2009

writing on poop!

Ever wondered what it would be to write on poop? Such stinky ideas do not strike people like us, but then there are always people like Mahima Mehra and Vijendra Shekhawat who come up with innovative things to write on. Five years ago, 37 year ole Mahima, a Jaipur-born Delhi entrepreneur and her companion, 26 year old Jaipur based Vijendra, then a small time executive in the paper industry, were on their way to the mystical Amber Fort on the jagged Aravalli hills. Climbing up the hill on that windy day, they stooped to squint at the source of all the dust that was filling their eyes. The source was dried moulds of elephant poop, flattened by the tourist vehicles and that was their ‘eureka’ moment. The thick, long fibrous look of the poop reminded them of mashed paper. Paying no attention to the curious looks and nudges of the tourist, the two scooped as much poop as they could and lugged it back home on their bike.
Back home the experiment began to understand the health hazards and profitability of using elephant dung to make handmade paper. It was concluded that using the dung was economical and manufacturing paper out of it would do good to the soil as well. The procedure of converting elephant poop to paper was the same as making other varieties of handmade paper, with the only challenge being to make it safe for the papermaker as well as the user by using disinfectants to make the paper as bacteria free as possible. The dung is collected from various elephant stables, and cleaned in large water tanks. This water is then drained into the fields which act as an excellent fertilizer for the crops. The fiber is softened by cooking it in water for 4-5 hours with salt, and then washing it with hydrogen peroxide to make it bacteria free. The pulp is later dried in the sun, removing any non-usable fiber. It then goes into the Hollander Beater, and is laid on wooden or cement vats filled with water. The sheets are dried in a cool and shady area. Once dry, the sheets are calendared with zinc coated metal sheets under pressure, to make them smoother and writable. They are then cut to the specified size, packed and sent to their required destination.
Christened as “Haati Chaap”, which means “Elephant’s print” the paper is used to make bags, frames, photo albums, notebooks, cards, tags and other stationeries.