At the age of 80, Abdul CK is still a child at heart as he goes about making handmade wooden toys with movable parts. As he attains fame through social media, Abdu ikka (elder brother), as he is called, is happy that more children will get to enjoy the toys that he crafts from junk and wood.
Years before Prime Minister Narendra Modi exhorted Indians to become a world-beater in toy-making, Abdu was making toys in Wayanad district in Kerala and selling it in different places like Pulpally, Kaniyambetta and Mananthavady in the district. Instead of selling it to a middleman, Abdu used to sell his toys himself. “I would go around rolling the toys I made and passers-by would stop to buy it. Pedestrians, those in cars…,” he says.
Dropping out of school after class two, Abdu began earning by doing odd jobs. “I was a daily wages labourer with a family to look after when I got injured at the age of 40. I wondered how I would make ends meet. That is when I tried my hand at making toys from bits and pieces. As a child, we used to make our own toys from whatever we had at home. I tried recollecting some of those to make my first few toys. I feel my ability in making toys is god-given,” recalls Abdu ikka on a phone call from his residence at Varadoor in Wayanad.
When his contraption fashioned out of wooden pieces succeeded in capturing the attention of a two-year-old in his neighbourhood and make him stop crying, Abdu ikka decided that he would make a living by selling toys. “I learnt to do everything myself. When something did not work, I tried other methods,” he says.
He recalls a tipper that he made after several trials. Although he wanted to make a working model of the tipper, he was unable to figure out how to make the cargo box tilt like a real tipper that is used for unloading material. “I kept at it for two weeks till I figured out how to do it. Now I make tippers, buses, tractors…,” he adds.
A ball-shaped plastic ice-cream container discarded by the roadside became flowers in his hands and he fixed them to two wheels held together on an axle. “If you push it around, the flowers revolve. It is very pretty. All these waste material that is thrown out can be fashioned into pretty and useful things,” he says.
At a small workshop set up at his house, Abdu ikka spends time making his wooden wonders. His 80-year-old wife, Nabeesa, helps him polish the wood for the toys, which are decorated with simple paintings of animals and flowers.
Initially, Abdu used to go around his home town selling his hand-crafted toys. “Videos of my toys have made me well-known. Now, customers come home to buy them. Prices range from ₹150 for a top to ₹650 to ₹750 for models of vehicles like tractors and tippers,” he adds.
Videos shared on social media show the USP of Abdu ilkka’s toys. “These are all made here in Wayanad, not made in China,” he laughs.