Had a rare, precious item that broke - and you were unsure on how to get them fixed? DIY and YouTube tutorials failed to be helpful while coming to a specific problem? There may be a solution: A collective of people willing to help you fix your loved item. The Repair Cafe in Bengaluru is a set-up where citizens can get their items fixed.
Run by a group of volunteers ranging from retired engineers, teachers, to enthusiastic young people with technical backgrounds, the team works to help people fix their items.
Whether it be the broken handle of a pressure cooker, an iron box, broken jewellery, the horn of a tricycle, an old radio or even an umbrella, they fix it all.
Purna Sakar, who came up with the idea in 2015 started it with the help of her friends.
“We are in an era where we use and throw. Instead of finding someone to repair something we can’t do ourselves, we find it easier to throw it away and buy a new one. Price is not the only criteria here, the mentality and behaviour have changed. That’s when we thought of bridging this gap and promote sustainability instead”, Sarkar tells News18.
It started with social media: The team would pack a bunch of tools and visit an area on particular Sundays. People of that area would be intimated about the service, and visit with all pending stuff they needed to be fixed.
A homemaker doesn’t want to throw away the small fancy fan she bought on her first trip to Dubai, a high school boy wants his favourite electronic toy from childhood gifted by his late grandfather to be functional. Some things can no longer be used, but can’t be parted with because of nostalgia.
At Repair Cafe, they used their experience to fix things like the fan, and the toy. It also promoted enthusiasts to volunteer. There would be tailors, cobblers, umbrella repairs for a very nominal fee charged for the service provided.
Lockdown brought along a problem: Physical contact being cut off: The team at Repair Café Bengaluru Foundation went virtual and decided to help train people to fix it themselves.
They now host two type of classes: One for adults, one for kids for a small fixed fee. ‘Troubleshoot it yourself’ and ‘Tinker kinder’ are a series of online sessions where participants learn how things work, how to fix certain things, how to be independent with some technical things.
75-year-old Bharath Kumar G, who is a retired Vice President of a Japanese automobile industry that manufactured parts for Mahindra, Ford and Volkswagen. He has always enjoyed working with circuits and machines and was bored of not doing it anymore post-retirement.
“A relative told me about Repair Café. People come with a variety of machines and most of them will take hardly few minutes to fix. Someone bought an ice crusher. Few people import electric bicycles from abroad and don’t know how to charge them here. We at repair café help them with that," he tells News18.
“Children are always enthusiastic about learning how to repair things. Kids open up few complicated devices and bring it to us to put them back. Now, with the online session, we teach homemakers how to use electric devices efficiently to save power. Though the online sessions are good, I love the physical setup where we could meet people and fix stuff," he adds.
At present, there are about a dozen such mentors volunteering with the team.
Nandini K L, a homemaker from Kumbalagodu on outskirts of Bengaluru joined TIY (Troubleshoot It Yourself) session last year and her 10-year-old son Advay is also an active participant of Tinker Kinder meant for kids.
“I am a double graduate and despite the education, I realized I don’t know many basic things. We follow use and throw culture rather than repair culture. I wanted to get back there and add less waste into the world. I didn’t know how to fix a leaking tap or to replace a simple switch if it is not working. That’s changed now," she says.
Her son Advay is also excited to DIY his problems away: “After attending the sessions, I haven’t taken my bicycle for repair. No matter what the problem is, I know what to do with it,” says Advay.
Learning to fix things is a life skill. A leaking tap or a flicking lamp is an annoyance - but knowing how to fix it immediately is the first step to solving the problems.