Mrunal Manmay Dash

Her expert hands weave life into threads which are mainly made from waste cloths and plastic. At 94 her eyes still sparkle while crafting dolls from old cloths. And the wrinkles on her face disappear when she hits the keys of her harmonium while singing bhajans.

Anyone who knows Malati Devi can never cross Bidanasi in Cuttack without dropping for some moments at her house. At this ripe age, she is not only going strong, but has been a living example of self reliance.

The handicrafts woven by Malati Devi from waste cloths and plastic materials are a hit among the locals who very fondly call her ‘Malati Mausi’.

From toys to dolls and from door mats to home decors, Malati Mausi’s touch makes the handicraft more lovely and valuable than the ones sold in the market.

Born at her ancestral home at Chandini Chowk in Cuttack in 1926, Malati studied till only class-6, but life has taught her many lessons that others find difficult to fathom. By her own admission, one needs to follow ones passion and pursue it until the target is achieved. Malati belonged to a poor family but that did not come on her way of raising six children including four sons and two daughters, especially after the passing away of her husband decades back.

Though her age has taken toll on her hearing ability, her voice is still crystal clear when she spoke to an OTV correspondent. “I can make a lot of things including a unique string attached doll made from palm leaves which is exactly like a dancing puppet. I can make woollen products like shawl and caps. I can even create useful artefacts from waste cloths and plastic,” said Malati.

She never had any formal training in music, but her singing at this age can even make the birds stop chirping. “My brother was a musician. He and his friends used to practice at our home. I got the inspiration from them and became a harmonium player in no time,” she said.

There is a saying, “Knowledge is the only treasure that increases by sharing.” And it has come true in the case of Malati. She never says no when somebody asks her to teach the nuances of weaving handicrafts. She has, in fact, taught many youngsters the fine art thereby ensuring to keep her legacy alive when she departs the earth.

Speaking about her long and healthy life, she said, “Happiness is the key to a healthy life. I have the ideal children who take good care of me. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren who play with me all the time. So I am happy, always.”

When asked what was the one thing she would like to advice the new generation, Malati said, “Never lose hope. Opportunity comes after adversity. Have patience and fight a situation on its face and conquer all.”

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