With Dasara around the corner, golu makers are busy completing orders for the miniature dolls. For Chennai-based golu-maker Geetha Kumari too, Dasara is a busy time because of the 100 odd orders she gets per month in the time preceding it. But given the Cauvery crisis and the tension between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, things have been a little difficult.
Geetha gets the wood she uses to make heads of the dolls from Mysore and nearby areas in Karnataka. "But with vehicles not being allowed to cross the border, courier services were also hit. Hence I couldn't get the 'aala maram' (the wood she uses)," she says. But thankfully, she had some of it stocked up from about six months ago, which is why she is able to deliver the orders she received this festive season.
Geetha learnt doll-making in Bengaluru between 1982-83. "I was always interested in doll making and drawing. So I started learning how to make dolls from a woman called Parvathamma," Geetha recalls. Later, she moved to Chennai on Parvathamma's encouragement. After taking only private orders for over a decade, she started supplying dolls to stores like Khadi and Poompuhar in 1998, and continues to do so.
In over two decades that she has been making golus, Geetha has seen demands and tastes change. She says that while making and displaying golus was traditionally a Tamil Brahmin practice, it is no longer so. And people are no longer looking for golus of gods and goddesses exclusively.
A common demand her customers make is for paired dolls: wedding and cultural pairs are commonly requested. "Once I had a customer from the US who took many dolls - all dressed up in different attires like Punjabi, Kashmiri, Gujarati - for teaching their kids about Indian culture back in the US," she informs.
Apart from the US, Geetha has also received orders from Singapore, Malaysia and Canada. Most of these people place the orders in advance and collect it from her when they visit India. She also gets orders from Bengaluru and cities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, but the bulk of her orders come from Chennai.
Another thing that's become common these days is people asking for entire scenes and stories to be created with her miniature dolls. "Many school children approach me for projects. Sometimes they want a scene from the Ramayana picturised with dolls. I've even had people come and tell me they want scenes which depict "women empowerment" with dolls," she says.
And while making dolls and golus is something Geetha is passionate about, the 50-year-old says that it takes time to put the materials and the dolls together, even with the help of 5-6 women all of who are between 40-60 years of age. It takes at least two days for making one doll and longer for bigger projects, she says Why is it so time consuming? Because Geetha makes the dolls from scratch.
"First you make the skeleton of the doll with wire according to the size specifications. Then I use cotton to make the mass of their body, later shaping it by tying thread. Then come the head, which we paint and the clothes, which I design and stitch depending on the requirements of the customers," Geetha says.
Geetha remains passionate about making golus and maintains that the only thing which will stop her from making dolls is her health. "So far I don't have an eyesight problem. I intend to keep making dolls till my health permits," she asserts.
Her golus range from 4-inches to 6-inches to 12-inches in height. While the smaller ones are priced at Rs 100, the bigger ones at 150. The price of the scenes depends on the number of dolls.