Tag Archives: dolls

Dolls and Dreams

I am obsessive about cleaning, and feel strange when I am not organizing or ‘re-cleaning’ things around the house.

Today, I attack the toy cupboard. Sadly though, the toy cupboard is only ‘that’ in name. Very few toys remain; the remaining space has been taken over by other stuff – odds and ends, this and that.

But it was not like this earlier. Every drawer in the toy cupboard was colour coded and sorted by type of toy, frequency of use, easy accessibility and other crazy things that only a mom with OCD would do!

At one point my daughter’s world was in various shades of pink, purple and silver. One drawer in the toy cupboard was dedicated to dolls, Barbie dolls to be specific. My daughter had around eight to ten Barbies.

Courtesy – Clipart Zone

I remember wonderful afternoons, when my daughter and her friends would play, cook, have tea, dress up their Barbies, and do all that little girls around the world did!

Before we knew it, my husband and I were attending our daughter’s interview for admission to school. They wanted to meet the child and talk to her.

My husband and I sat on either side of our daughter, who was at her cheerful best. The teacher spoke to her.

Teacher : Why do you want to come to school?

Daughter: To study….

Teacher: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Daughter: (after deep thought) I want to be a Barbie doll.

All of us burst out laughing.

As with everything else, the Barbie phase came to an end, in bits and pieces.

It began when she stopped playing with the dolls, sometimes. Then came the phase, when she would take them out sometimes, or when a friend still wanted to play. Then came the phase of packing them up, but not willing to part with them. And then the day, when she gave them away.

The dolls were replaced by badge makers, loom bands, beading kits, and lots of art and craft projects.

Pinks and purples have now been replaced by black, silver, and more black and silver.

How time has flown!

Lipsticks and little girls

It was a sweltering day, many years ago, when we had the naming ceremony for my baby girl, who was only 3 weeks old.  My mom’s home was teeming with aunts, uncles, cousins and little nieces and nephews, all of whom had come to bless and welcome our little bundle of joy.

I received hundreds of tips on being a mother, and hundred ‘must-know’ things about child rearing, and a dozen versions of who my baby resembled in the family. It was a normal, Indian family celebration.

I was a little tired by the afternoon, and when my mom caught my eye and realized that I was tired, she signalled for me to go in and take a quick nap. I slipped away, unnoticed.

I went and lay down, my eyes closing involuntarily. While still asleep, I heard something. I opened my eyes and realized that one of my nieces was in the room, before the dresser mirror.

I could see her reflection in the mirror, as she made faces at herself, and then tried on one of the lipsticks. Gently opening the tube, she used her finger to apply a dark maroon lipstick on her lips. I could imagine how good and beautiful she felt. After sometime, she quietely slipped out of the room.

Image courtesy – Shutterstock

I laughed, fully awake by then. I remembered how, as a little girl, my favourite game was to play ‘teacher’. The role demanded that I have long hair, and that I wear lipstick.

The hair problem was easily resolved. I found a piece of black cloth from my mom’s sewing kit and tied it around my hair, allowing the black cloth hair to fall over my shoulders to  the front. My students ‘had’ to see my long hair.

The lipstick posed a problem. My mom did not use lipstick, neither did my aunt. But my teachers at school wore lipstick, so I needed to wear lipstick to look authentic. Then I hit upon the idea of using the red liquid that Indian women use to wear bindis (the dots on the forehead). This was available in abundance, so during the afternoons when my gran, aunt and mom napped, I applied generous amounts of red on my lips and taught and educated many children every afternoon.

Lipsticks and makeup were forgotten till high school and university, when my mom gifted me my own lipstick for my birthday. I still remember its shade, copper brown. I still wonder how my mom knew what would look good on me! I used that tube till there was nothing left. 

After that first tube, lipsticks became a part of my life, and over the years I have tried many shades, and have settled on a few that suit me well.

A few years ago, when my son had his school concert, the little girls in his class were all dressed up like pretty dolls and fairies. However, a few girls had their lips in a weird kind of pout. On asking their moms, I found out that the girls had worn lipstick for the first time, and that they did not want for it to go away. I remember how much I laughed that day.

Now, my daughter grimaces when I talk about makeup or lipstick or accessories. She is ‘at home’ in her jeans and tees.

I smile as I look into the future, when my daughter will want to try on lipsticks and makeup. She just doesn’t know it yet!

My Doll Display – Part 3

Today’s featured dolls are the Tanjavur Dolls, so called, as they are made in Tanjavur.

Tanjavur is one of the oldest cities in South India. The city boasts some of the best temple architecture in the country, built during the golden reign of the Chola dynasty.



The two pictures above show a typical ‘Thalaiyaatti Bommai’ (meaning a doll that shakes its head).  This doll actually comes in 4 pieces. The base, the skirt, the torso and the head.  Each part is balanced on the part below it on a thin curved wire, which causes the different parts to oscillate, each time you touch them.

Kids and adults have a lot of fun, making these dolls move.

In my Golu, this doll was the welcome doll, greeting friends as they entered the house.

There is also a joke about the term ‘thalaiyaatti bommai’ – as a nickname for people who say ‘yes’ to everything!

The second type of Thalaiyaatti Bommais are the ‘Chettiar-Aachi’ dolls. A must-have in every Golu. These dolls are always in a couple, husband and wife. They are an ode to the rich business heritage of the Chettiar community in  South India. These dolls are usually made of two pieces; only the head piece shakes. These dolls represent growth, happiness and prosperity.

In a typical Golu, these dolls are placed with grains and vegetables.


The other type of Tanjavur Dolls are the roly-poly dolls usually depicting the kings and queens of the region.  These dolls have a spherical base and hence, come back to the same position after one moves them.


The Tanjavur Dolls are made from sago, wood pulp, papier mache and Plaster of Paris. They are supposed to have become popular in the early 19th Century.

The Indian Government has now included these Tanjavur Dolls in the Govt. of India Geographical Indications Registry, as lawfully originating in the region.

Hope you are all shaking your heads after this post!

The Tin Cat – A short story

Varsha, seven, was very excited. Today, she was going with her mother to her place of work. Varsha usually stayed home with her grandmom, when her mother went to work. Today, her grandmom had to attend a wedding, and hence this sudden treat of going to a new place, and being with her mother the whole day.

Her mother worked as a housekeeper-of- sorts, and cook in the house of Mrs & Mr.Pal. They owned a garment factory, and were very rich.

Their palatial house had many rooms and huge, well-maintained grounds. There was a huge staff to polish and clean the house.

Varsha’s mom, Malar, usually left at 6 am and came home at 8 pm.  Varsha wore her best frock. Her mother suggested that she take her toys (she had only two) with her, so she could play and not cause any trouble at the big house.

The said toys were Varsha’s treasures. Without siblings, and a shortage of money, these toys were her life.

One was a doll that could blink its eyes and the other was a Tin Cat of the drag-along variety that her father had fashioned out of an old tin can. It had a string that could be used to drag the cat. Varsha had added eyes, whiskers and a tail.

Once they reached the Big House (as her mother called it), Varsha was asked to play in the backyard. Her eyes grew big when she saw the size of the yard. Ten times bigger than their small home.

She chased butterflies, admired the coconut trees, watched the gardener at work, and periodically held conversations with her doll. She sat her doll on Tin Cat and dragged her along. The tin made a rattling noise on the concrete.

Hearing this noise, Mr.Pal’s daughter came running to investigate. When she saw Varsha, she asked her if she could play with her toys. Varsha was only too happy to oblige. Ana was the girl’s name. Time passed, as the girls role-played.

Ana then took Varsha to her room. Varsha could not believe that one person could have so many toys. She was fascinated by the colours, the sounds and the variety. They played with a doll house and a kitchen set; and then with modelling clay. Varsha was in bliss.

The day flew by and soon her mother called out to her, saying that it was time to go home.

As Varsha said bye, Ana took the Tin Cat and asked if she could keep it.

Varsha said no. But Ana threw a tantrum, she sobbed and cried for the Tin Cat. All that crying brought Mrs.Pal, her mother to the room. The mother couldn’t bear to see her daughter cry.

She requested Malar for the Tin Cat for her daughter.

As Varsha stood looking shocked, her mother gave away the toy. Ana’s crying stopped immediately. She brought one of her old dolls and gave it to Varsha.

Varsha’s heart broke as she left the house, crying silently to herself.

Her mother consoled her and said, “Don’t worry, Dad will make a new one for you dear.”

“But she has hundreds of toys Amma, why did she want mine? You know I love Tin Cat so much”, said Varsha.

The household was quiet that evening. The mother very disturbed and the daughter shedding tears for her lost Tin Cat.

Upon knowing what happened, Varsha’s Dad promised to make a new Tin Cat for her very soon.

A few days went by thus, and Varsha slowly came to terms with her loss.

One evening, when her mother came home from work, she called out to Varsha.

“Varsha, come here. I’ve got something for you”, said her mother.

Her mother was holding Tin Cat in her hand. Varsha couldn’t believe her luck. She yelled and jumped and ran to hug Tin Cat, smothering it with kisses.

“How did you get it back, Amma?” she asked.

“Ana told me she has finished playing with it”, said her mother.

Varsha gave Ana’s doll to her mother and asked her to return it.

That night, as Varsha’s parents sat talking, her mother told her father, “I found Tin Cat in the dustbin this morning, when I was clearing up Ana’s room. I quietly hid it and brought it back home.”

My Nephew and The Grim-Looking Musicians

My two and a half-year old nephew had come to stay with us last year during the holidays, with his parents.

He took time to adjust to his new environs. We allowed him to explore our home at his own pace. Left to himself, he walked around, curious, touching this, feeling that.

I wondered what my home looked like from his height. He spent a lot of time getting on and off the small step between the living room and the kitchen. When he caught us staring, he would laugh and run away to find his mom.

However, there was one thing that puzzled me about his morning sojourns in the living room.

We have a set of rather grim-looking musician dolls made of wood, from India, in our living room.


The Grim Musicians

Almost every day that he was in our home, my nephew went to these dolls, touched one of them in particular, for a while. His lips then trembled; and his eyes blinked rapidly and filled with tears.

He would then walk away trying to compose himself, and was soon distracted by other things.

We wondered if the grim-musicians with their big eyes and dark mustaches where scaring our little boy. But we reasoned that if he was afraid he wouldn’t keep going to touch them everyday. The same routine continued everyday and our puzzle remained unsolved.

Just two days before he left, he was back with the grim-musicians on his morning beat, and looked up at us with eyes brimming with tears.

When my sister asked him why he was sad, we finally had an answer. In his baby voice he replied, “Grampa is singing…Grampa is singing.”

He burst into tears. We then realized that his paternal grandfather has a mustache, and also sings to him everyday.

In one of those grim-faced musicians, he saw his grampa and probably pined for him everyday.

We gathered him for a collective bear-hug, and then connected him on Skype to his grampa.