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Pinks and purples have now been replaced by black, silver, and more black and silver.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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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.