THANE: Even as city markets are flooded with festive goodies and artefacts in preparation of Gudi Padwa, colourful gudis made by special students of a city-based centre have been gaining popularity.

The colourful brocade cloth-wrapped gudis created by 25 creative students of Vishwas Centre for the Mentally Challenged are not just the most sought-after in city but are also in high demand from markets abroad.

Avanti Kopikar, a 34-year-old Naupada resident, who purchased a couple of gudis made by these students, said, “I have been purchasing handmade gudis from these students for the past five years. I also send two of these to my brothers who are settled in the US and UK. By buying these gudis, we not only invest in unique designs, which are rare in local markets, but also help the special students celebrate a happy new year.”

Kopikar is just one among the many who have placed orders for these gudis for themselves and their relatives living abroad.

Arvind Sule, one of the trustees of the centre, said, “Our students have been making artefacts essential for every festival for lake-city residents over the years ranging from lamps and lanterns to rakhis and gudis. While some of our customers who are planning to settle down abroad have asked us to keep aside a few pieces reserved for them, others send it across to their relatives living outside India. We have already sent 20 gudis to countries, including UK and US this year and are preparing more for dispatch. For every 250 to 300 pieces we make, 20 to 30 pieces are sent to foreign countries.”

The activity of buying gudis made by special students not just brings out their creativity and talent but also instils a sense of confidence in them.

Meena Kshirsagar, principal of the centre, said, “We provide the students with material, teach them how to make the goods, explain the significance of their product, sell it below the market price and give them the monetary incentive they have earned with every piece. This makes them feel on par with their earning family members. While we guide them on how to place the brocade cloth around the stick and put the small traditional pot called tambi on top, they add their own creative touches to it.”

She added that the centre has 25 students between the ages of 18 and 52 with mental disabilities.

 “There are very few other centres that encourage them to improve themselves. Getting involved in these creative activities and participating in celebrations and festivals by working hard helps them build their self worth,” added Kshirsagar.