Giving up a lucrative job at an IT firm in Bangalore and setting up a studio in Ahmednagar to teach HIV positive children to make Ganesh idols from clay and also design jewellery as part of the decoration, 34-year-old Manjiri Tambe has several other plans to hone the creative skills of these children.
For this Ganesh festival, around 18 children made clay (shadu) idols of Ganesh, and as many as 400 have been sold for Rs 500 each. The children who stay at Snehalaya rehabilitation centre, a home for HIV positive children and women in Ahmednagar, have been busy designing the idols and even as there is a demand for more, Tambe said it was time for some rest. “We have worked hard for the last one month, making these models, and children have been working for nine hours at a stretch,” she said.
Born in Pune, Manjiri soon excelled in academics and travelled to Bangalore where she worked with TCS as a systems applications and products (SAP) consultant. “Over the weekends, I joined classes to learn techniques like natural dyeing and handloom-related work. Since I spent several years in Ahmednagar and was attached with the Snehalaya home doing voluntary work, I decided to train these children and introduce them to new courses,” she said.
Manjiri first learnt the nuances of the craft herself and then decided to set up a creative art studio at Snehalaya. “There is so much dedication among these children who want to prove themselves. They are eager to learn new things and some of them are extremely artistic,” she said. Along with the HIV positive children are also commercial sex workers who have left the profession and joined Snehalaya as volunteers.
This group activity gives them a sense of belonging and it increases their confidence in being able to earn independently. Javed, an HIV positive student of Class VI, said, “My parents are no more and I have been staying at the institution for five years now. I love to make the Ganesh models and now Manjiri didi is going to teach us block printing and other similar activities.”
For 40-year-old Jaya Jogdand, who gave up her work as a commercial sex worker to volunteer at Snehalaya, designing Ganesh idols with the children has been a fun activity. “Some of us have also earned money by making the idols and like every year a certain amount will be sent for people who have been affected by natural calamities. Last time, money was raised for the Jammu and Kashmir flood affected people, while this year we have been collecting funds for drought-affected farmers in Marathwada,” said Jogdand.