Tamil Nadu

Festival season brings no cheer to clay doll makers this year

Doll makers say the dolls are ready, but there are hardly any buyers

Doll makers say the dolls are ready, but there are hardly any buyers   | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

Doll makers say that because of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, they are staring at huge losses as there are no buyers for their wares and no way to transport their goods

With the festival season around the corner, 63-year-old T. N. Shankar, a clay doll maker from Kancheepuram, dusts his clay and papier-mâché dolls every day, hoping that a customer will buy them. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, there are hardly any takers for the dolls, and doll makers from Kancheepuram and Cuddalore say they are staring at a bleak future.

Close to 150 families in Kancheepuram are into the business of doll-making, and they earn a living by selling these dolls during Krishna Jayanthi, Vinayakar Chathurthi, Navaratri, Easter and Christmas. The doll making starts from January, and in a year more than 10,000 dolls, worth close to ₹10 lakh, are made by July. The price ranges between ₹100 to ₹10,000.

“Even today, the dolls are ready. The main focus is on Navaratri dolls or the kolu bommai. I got an order from Australia, but I am unable to send it due to lack of transport,” explained Mr. Shankar.

Doll makers claim that usually during this time, non-resident Tamils living in the USA, UK, Australia and other parts of India including Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi order these dolls. “We courier it to them. There used to be a steady stream of customers from Chennai too. A few days before the festivals, we would display the dolls outside our houses and people would purchase from us,” said 55-year-old N. Rajesh, another clay doll maker.

Mr. Rajesh said that he will be staring at a loss of up to ₹6 lakh this year. “Most of us have taken loans to make these dolls. We are not sure how we will repay them. Our stock is ready, but we do not know how to sell the dolls now,” he added.

S. Karthikeyan, a clay doll maker from Vandipalayam in Cuddalore said that there are 100 families that depend on this business in the district. “Most of them are third-generation doll makers. We get orders for Christmas too. I have kept the dolls for all festivals ready, but I am not sure if I will be able to sell them,” he said.

Mr. Shankar said that he is more worried about people who work for him. “They are dependent on us, but since we don’t have any business, I am not able to pay them,” he said.

S. Aravind, 21, an MBA student who helps his father N. Suresh in the business, said that every day they wait eagerly for customers. “I do not want to see this business collapsing, hence I am trying to boost sales through promotions on social media,” he said.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 5:25:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/festival-season-brings-no-cheer-to-clay-doll-makers-this-year/article32041620.ece

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