For most people hobbies are a means to distract minds from the day to day routine of life or a platform to showcase their creativity. A tiny percent of people however decide to delve deeper into their hobbies and reap unimaginable benefits.
R. Bhanumathi is one such person who went on to do an in depth study into a hobby she stumbled upon and in the process carved a place for herself in the field of conservation of traditional crafts.
It all started when her friend from Baroda requested her to make some dolls for her play school and Bhanumathi pitched in to help her. "I had some idea about soft doll making and after going through some books I made a few glove puppets and dispatched them.ť That was the beginning of Bhanumathis ongoing journey into puppet making and related activities. The dolls caught the fancy of an art gallery owner who requested her to take a summer camp for kids on the craft.
Armed with a post graduate degree in community resource management, a degree in education and a diploma in environment education, Bhanumathi was also working with the World Wildlife Fund around this time. She used puppets to get across environment and wildlife conservation messages during workshops.
A chance suggestion by a participant in one of the workshops triggered the idea to get a doctorate in the subject. Rejection from three universities in seven years did not daunt her quest. Her application was finally accepted by the Gandhigram Rural University near Madurai.Her study took her to the interiors of the four southern states and it revealed some disturbing facts, "The craft of puppetry is dying for want of interest.ť Dr. Bhanumathi decided to do something about it and opened the Pavai Center for Puppetry in Chennai. Through her center she had done enumerable workshops educating children and adults on the different forms of puppet making. "Puppetry is a powerful tool for communication and has a wide scope of application;my goal is to teach it to as many people as possible so that this vibrant craft does not become extinct.ť