Villagers in Siddipur in Lalitpur have been weaving straw mats for household use for as long as anyone can remember. Maharjan's family has also been weaving mats, but he was the first to go commercial.
Setting up the Thasi Resource Mobilisation Centre five years ago, the villagers started selling the mats in the city. Maharjan is a French instructor in the French National School in Maharajgunj and coaches fellow-villagers in the skill of straw weaving.
"Weaving straw is a traditional skill that is passed on to us, but now we are making a little money out of it," says Maharjan.
Since the market for straw mats is not big, the centre produces other straw items like doormats, penholders, shoes, coasters and backrests, to name a few.
Although the centre promotes tradition by making it profitable, there have been subtle changes to the weaving methods. The coarse straw is now treated to make it softer and coloured to make it more attractive.
Maharjan says some city folks are reverting back to traditional straw mats from carpets. The centre gets orders mostly from resorts and hotels. "Straw mats condition room temperature automatically," he says. One can even put a straw mat on the bed, a common practice in the village.
Villager Nawaraj Diyali says: "Siddipur has now a new claim to fame?our quality straw mats."