Doll making, a new employment avenue in Tripura

Joynagar (Tripura), Sept. 27 : The history of India from ancient times to the present day has been depicted in a collection of dolls put together by Shukla Chakraborty in Tripura.

For Shukla Chakraborty dolls were her best friends during childhood and still remain so at 47 years of age but for a different reason.

Shukla, who was just a housewife till a few years back, is now a famed entrepreneur in cloth dolls in Tripura.

Without any formal training in doll making, Shukla accidentally discovered her passion for making dolls when she had first made one for her daughter's work education project.

This encouraged her to make few more. She then displayed them at the Industrial Fair and in which all her dolls were sold at a good price.

“I first made a doll for my daughter’s work education which was highly praised by everyone. They asked me to make and display dolls during Industrial Fairs in the year 1997. I opened a sales counter which had a very good response,” she said.

She received an invitation from the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd. (NEDFi) to participate in fairs held out of the state.

Unlike most other cloth dolls made elsewhere in India, the most striking feature of Shukla's dolls remains the faces which are made realistic.

She makes the face for the dolls out of a deco-fix, a mixture readily available in the market used for fixing screws in walls.

Instead of sewing cloth and stuffing with cotton, the bodies of the dolls are made by wrapping strip of cloth around an iron wire frame.

The limbs, fingers and the torso of the dolls are also made of cloth. The fingers are then fixed to the limbs and arms with glue.

The accuracy in gestures of the hand and body is provided because of the accurate cloth patterns used for the body of the dolls and the special way the wire frame is assembled. She then fixes appropriate clothing and jewellery to the doll.

Her dolls depict different tribes, art and culture of northeast India, Indian classical and folk dances, Gods and Goddesses and costumes from India as well as other nations.

The cloth dolls are in high demand not only in the state but also outside.

There is a huge demand for the dolls. We have dolls symbolizing people from all states of India and even different foreign nations,” she said.

After participating in different fairs in Guwahati, Shillong, Sikkim, last year, she participated at the International Trade Fair (ITF) in New Delhi, where the sale was very good.

This year also she got invitation from the ITF. She has started collecting the dolls. But now she is not alone as many more have joined her.

Recently, Shukla trained 50 women at Mohanpur under NEDFI's sponsor, 20 members' team under Arkaneer (NGO). At present 15 women of the Adibashi Mahila Samiti are being trained by her.

"I first saw this type of dolls in the Industrial Fair and was interested to learn how to make them. So, I learnt doll making at the Adibashi Mahila Samiti. At present, I am making them here,” said Sarbari Debbarma, a trained doll maker.

I earn well, Shukla added. A doll is sold between Rs. 100 to Rs 120. Special dolls like idols of Radha-Krishna are sold between Rs 300-350.

Another trainee, Sanghita Barari said that she had a doll in her house and was interested in learning how to make it. After completing her education, she joined Shukla's doll making training centre to learn the process of making the dolls.

"Here I can apply my creativity and at the same time I can take this as my source of income. These dolls can be good decorative items and one can offer them as gifts,” said Sanghita.

Dolls represent the culture of a nation. The rich cultural heritage of a country over the ages can be vividly depicted through dolls.

From ancient times, dolls of various types fascinated children and helped them develop their intellect and imagination.

From early times, various materials have been used to make toys and dolls. The oldest toys date back 5,000 years ago. This is evident from the remains collected at Harappa-Mohenjodaro, which date back to the Indus valley civilization.

At one time dolls were given away as wedding presents to the child bride. Today, they depict Indian life and culture. (With inputs from ANI)