S. Mukesh, a fourth-year-engineering student and his youngster sister S Vibeshini, a second-year medical imaging technology student, who hail from a mud doll-making family, deftly paint the contours of a mud doll at their house in Sallavanpet, Vellore. However, the usual joy is missing from their faces. Since COVID-19 has impacted their family business, they have not been able to pay fees, and were not able to take their semester exams this year.
“I was not able to appear for the semester exams in August as I could not pay the fees. The college management asked me to take a loan and pay the fees, but my father T. Senthil Kumar has also already borrowed to purchase raw materials to make the dolls,” said Ms. Vibeshini.
Ms. Vibeshini and her brother now work with their father as most of their staff have left in search of other jobs. “We have been in this trade for the past five generations. We used to have 20 staff members to make dolls and paint them. Every year we make around 10,000 dolls, ranging from three inches tall to 3 feet, and sell them during Navaratri, Krishna Jayanthi and Vinayaka Chathurthi. But this year, our business has plummeted and I am not sure how we will even eat next year,” said Mr. Senthil Kumar who runs the doll-making company.
Breaking into tears he said that though he is happy to see his children take part in their traditional work, he is very upset at their missing their examinations due to his inability to pay fees. “I have no other go as my staff members have left as I was not able to pay their wages. So my children are helping me now to complete the dolls. But I want them to study well and do well in life,” said Mr. Senthil Kumar.
Ms. Vibeshini however is hopeful. “I used to make dolls and paint them when I was a child. So I am happy to help my father. I know things will turn around soon,” she says.