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Monday, August 1, 2016

What would a Villager do with a Ball of String?

Let’s say I hand you a ball of string and ask you, “Think of the most creative thing that you can create using this.” The first things I think of include the string for a kite, a piece of art, or for the more adept, a nice Christmas sweater. However, about a month ago on a trip to my father's village in India, I was blown away by what the Western world would deem as “uneducated” villagers in India had done with this simple thread. They were able to fashion one of the most comfortable, elegant, and seemingly simple cots I’d ever come across, and these craftsmen did it all in just a couple of hours. Yet, I was about to find out that its simplicity is quite deceiving.

A cot, for anyone who is not familiar, is a type of bed that is made in a similar fashion as a hammock, but can be very convenient in the sense that it can be folded up and moved around very easily. This allows for the capability to sleep among the stars one night and sleep next to the AC unit the next. In the US, they are generally used for camping due to it's versatility and sturdiness, yet in Indian villages, they are commonly used as beds and are used for a variety of other uses also.

Twenty hours. That’s how long I spent creating a cot with my brother. Between the both of us we had spent nearly two straight days building the same cot that should’ve been done in the time it would take to watch a movie. So why did it take so long?  Simply put, it's not as easy as it seems, and I understand if how you're feeling if it seems hard.

An example of a cot (this one is smaller than usual)
My dad pointing out a mistake...again
Made a mistake (the green cot on the left is 50 years old)

As you can see, the creation of a cot is not just the tedious and boring job it appears to be. Instead, it is a skill that has to be trained just like any other skill. The level of mastery over the art that some of the villagers had attained took them hours of time and dedication. The one who taught us, a relative of my dad, had said that he'd made over fifty cots by the time he was eighteen. Incredible.

It was 1 AM when we tied the final string to the cot. Over the longevity of the project, we had gotten better and better and began making fewer and fewer mistakes. Although you may think that I would be ecstatic to have finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel, but instead I was thinking about the trying question of why. Why had we just spent countless hours on building a cot? Why was anyone spending their time building a bed made out of string when they could simply buy a bed of the same quality in the town just 10 km away. However, I was too tired and exhausted to continue thinking about this thought.

As I plopped down onto my own creation, it was as if I had just put on a pair of glasses and everything became clear. It was like an epiphany when I realized that I had just created a cot out of a ball of yarn, a couple twigs I found outside, and an old frame, and it was competitive to my own bed in every sense. It was just as comfortable. It was just as if not more sturdy and equally beautiful. And with the total cost of the entire project coming up to a grand total of $5, the cost was about $1495 cheaper than my bed. Along with this the versatility of the cot that allows people to adopt it for camping significantly increases the size of your bedroom by simply folding it up. This is a luxury that the owner of a conventional bed can never claim. Aside from the inconvenience of creating it, the idea of a cot suddenly seemed ingenious.

The more I looked, the more benefits arose. I noticed how Indian homes generally seem very small with only 2 to 3 rooms for an entire family. In a similar family, there are commonly at least 6 rooms. How? Cots weren't only being used as beds but also as couches in the living room and seats in the dining room.  In every house I went to, there was always at least one cot in almost every room in the house. The space efficiency brought by the convenient ability of cots to be able to be removed after your done with them allows for smaller and less expensive houses.

Along with this, they are also very eco-friendly for those looking to decrease their "footprint" on the world or simply go green. The reason for this is the fact that that they are created without the use of any machinery and not having to be imported from other countries. So for all of the adventurists and risk-takers out there I urge you to try this bed.

But in the end, it's something that you're going to be sleeping on after a hard day's work, so you obviously want something comfortable. Fear not. As I stated earlier, even though they are just made of string, cots are possibly even more comfortable than a conventional bed. Imagine sleeping on a hammock every night. Also, with the holes made by the gaps between the gaps in the strings, it eliminates the common problem of your bed getting too hot decreasing the need for expensive AC charges.The cost efficiency brought by cots not only suits poor farmers in third world villages, but also anyone on a budget who isn't willing to sacrifice a comfortable night.

I will write a tutorial in the next article for anyone who wants to try it out, or you could just buy one online. However, they may be expensive due to import costs, so I recommend building it for both the eco-friendliness and the joy you get from creating your own bed with your own bare hands.

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