My moments with magical “Mylapore” never ends. From my school days, I used to watch in awe, the display of Navaratri golu dolls of all shapes and sizes in the famous “Mylapore” Tank Area. Home to the famous Kapaleeswar temple, the four streets around the temple acclaim to have an hub of activity during the Navaratri season where doll-makers, fruit sellers, flower sellers, gift sellers dominate from the streets to the shops. The unstoppable fame and the yearly bonanza never seems to surprise me.
This year too, I ventured on this journey twice, once during the evening just to experience the hustle and bustle of the Mada streets festival season and one more time during the day to bring my prized possessions home. Street vendors laid out their clay and paper mache dolls made with themes in mind drawn from the supreme mythologies, occupational related themes, depictions from the much liked Amar Chitra Kathas and dolls from the kids favorite characters like Chota Bheem, Little Krishna etc.
Dusk had set in, so the streets were filled with people vying to get the best. Loud voices filled the air with people bargaining with the vendors to take dolls after dolls. I saw different vendors selling dolls made of clay, plaster of paris, kondapalli etc.,. The dolls were made with a specific theme like vegetable and fruit selling vendors, diya sets, lord gubera set, ganesha bhojanam, murugar set with hermits praying to him, tractors and farm sets, marriage eat-out set along with single life-like dolls of gods and goddesses, humans, animals etc. In addition, I also saw some vendors selling jars for pickles, elephant figurines and stools made of clay etc. Cute toys for setting up parks, garden, zoo, pond etc were also available, making a very colorful display for the eyes.
I did talk to some of the doll makers and they were unanimous in saying some of the below pointers:
- The dolls were lot more costlier than previous years, pointing to the recent addition of Goods and Sales Tax.
- The doll makers and sellers were not happy since they bought all the stock with the loan got from private agents and had to pay high interest rates.
- Compared to the prior years, vendors informed that due to the price increases, customers are purchasing two dolls instead of three or four to balance their personal budgets.
- Corporation of Chennai could provide more lights throughout the streets so that all the shops on both sides could get enough lights.
- Parking the carts is definitely a big issue. The vendors sometimes have to pay money to the watchman to give them a space. They sleep near their carts on the pavement during this month or luckily a few who have friends manage to grab a bit of a sleep there.
The disappointment of not selling much could take a toll on these toiling doll makers who come from far to sell the wares. There was also a sentiment about how the younger generation needed a more sustainable income, hence they needed to do some additional work or had a thought to diverge from the current doll making business.
It was not with a happy heart that I heard all this – the essence of these sellers surviving is based on the encouragement that we as consumers can give them and also the support that they can get from Government. I just hoped that this sentiment would not continue to dissuade them from carrying on this wonderful tradition and legacy – a hallmark that distinguishes Mylapore from the rest of the localities.
Blog Published by: Ms. Rekha Chellappa, Craft Hobbiyst, Chennai, India