I just finished folding up a peacock and a pair of elephants for my workplace, because the little menagerie that I had there was stolen last week. I had a pair of elephants, a couple of bulls, a sitting bird and a flying parrot. I also had a heart with an arrow passing through it stuck to my monitor. Now only the parrot remains pinned to my cubicle partition.
And in case you haven't guessed by now, and haven't looked at the pictures, I'm talking about Origami animals: animal models made by folding up pieces of paper. Origami is a Japanese art of paper-folding. Traditionally, the best models are those which are made from a single piece of paper, do not require cutting or pasting, and do not require a ruler or any kind of geometrical instrument to make.
It was probably on my sixth birthday that my aunt presented me a book on Origami. It was a Bengali book written by Narayan Sanyal. I was too young to read the complex instructions and make the models at the time. My father came to the rescue, and he read up the first few chapters and taught me how to follow the diagrams. He also made the first few simple models for me. Once I caught up with the thing, there was no turning back. I gradually started making more and more complex models by myself. My grandfather, who was a very creative man and enthusiastic about anything new in general, provided encouragement by buying different coloured papers for me, and even cutting them up into various sized squares so that I could make the models easily. At that time I practised day and night, although it would still take me years to master the most complex models in the book. The Bedouin on horseback shown above is such a model. It is made from a single piece of paper, a piece as large as a full sheet of brown paper.
Then for a few years there was a lull in my Origamic activities, because I had finished the book and had nothing new to make. I did invent a few models of my own, but they were not very good.
While in college, I suddenly discovered one day that there were a lot of Origami models that could be learnt online. This finding quickly rejuvenated my interest and I learnt several new models like the variety of elephants shown on the left. The fun of Origami is that the symbols are universal and I can follow instructions written in any language. I have managed to keep this hobby alive even after coming into the IT industry. Only, there’s a slight twist to it. These days I usually don’t buy paper but use waste paper instead. It’s quite exciting to hunt for appropriately colored paper among pamphlets, used brochures and magazines.
And the collection on my office desk is ever growing. While others decorate their workspace with little things they bought, I decorate it with waste paper. Unknown people come and ask me about them, and want to learn. I have even taught some colleagues a few simple models. Even the Project Managers ask me about the models when they pass near my desk. That’s quite natural too, because the green coloured flying parrot immediately attracts the attention of any passerby.