The Azadi Notebook

As some of you might know, we have been making hand-bound notebooks out of one-sided A4 size printer paper reclaimed from our homes. You may want to read the mission statement of our Valuing Waste project. Latest in our series of hand-bound, one-sided notebooks made entirely from waste.

At its core the idea of making notebooks is a personal revolution. There are industries worth billions of dollars out to capitalise on our thirst for instant gratification, keeping us distracted from the arduous and painfully slow work of adding value to our lives. 

We present the “Azadi” Notebook. In the process of making notebooks from waste material found in the home, we discovered another dimension of these notebooks – the ability to make the notebook speak. Using discarded paper, we can tell and retell the story of your life, either present or past, through the notebook. The Azadi notebook is made out of old photocopies of identity documents. The idea of having to prove your identity to the government is not new for Indians. Every Indian, no matter who they are, has bore the burden of showing to the government that they exist for every single thing. Every application, every registration, every certification, every document, every benefit, every submission requires photocopies of your identity documents. The words “id-proof, address-proof” are sine qua non for any discourse even remotely official in Indian civic life. The present legislation of the government, from this standpoint, is nothing new. It is just the logical conclusion of what we have already been doing since the British took over.

Agrez chale gaye, babu log chorh gaye.

We reclaimed old photocopies of documents from our homes and fashioned a large sized notebook from the them. The front and back covers are made out of the gatta from an old sarkari folder, the spine is bound with the blue ribbon that are wound around all those folders and the bind is sewed with the white thread that comes out of the ribbon. The front cover is decorated with clippings of headlines on the Anti-CAA protest movement from newspapers and postcards designed by Shaheen Bagh protester Usama Zakir. The back cover is decorated with a collage made of old yellow government communication envelopes.

We encountered catharsis when we covered up our personal details on the images of identifying documents with images of protest and juxtaposed them with government propaganda from newspapers.

Hum kaagaz nahin dikhayenge.

A protest postcard designed by Usama Zakir covers a photocopy of an Aadhar card.
An old photocopy of a passport covered up with a protest image from Jamia Millia Islamia.

As we went on a cutting spree with trimmings from newspapers piling up in small mountains all around us, every page took on new meanings. Public interest advertising by the government took a place in the Azadi notebook.

When we first started to make these notebooks, people would want to know whether they posed a “security threat” because we were using discarded documents which may contain sensitive information that maybe misused by someone. Following recent events, we must reconsider whether documents really provide security and whether the misuse of documents is something only criminals do.

The idea of the one-sided notebook brings together in one hand-made object the key problems of economic development and spiritual development. It links the freedom from the clutches of capitalism to the higher freedom – azaadi. Economic self-sufficiency is the precursor to spiritual self-determination – swaraj. Personal revolution in our lives begins when we start shutting down the monstrous machine of modernity. Slowing down is necessary for wholesome growth.

“The schools and colleges are really a factory for turning out clerks for Government.”

Mahatma Gandhi

We leave you to ponder these questions while you enjoy the following showcase of the Azadi notebook. We hope you will also tell your stories by making your own notebooks.

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