Bhoomika dolls are made entirely from discarded and waste fabric of any material and colour. Proceeds from its sale will go towards flood relief work and to the women making these dolls.

Meet Bhoomika the mascot doll woven from the ruins of Kerala floodsPhotos: Sreekesh Raveendran Nair
news Flood Relief Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 15:54

Kerala’s Chekutty doll has a friend now, Bhoomika. Swaying by a thread in the courtyard of a naalukettu (a traditional homestead) in Thiruvananthapuram, this tiny doll has long black hair tied into two plaits, a big red bindi and no lips. She sits in a boat, contemplating, perhaps, on life.

A room away, more Bhoomikas are being made. Four women are weaving and stitching with an impressive sleight of hand, while Sobha Viswanath, who runs the Weavers Village, a handloom centre in this naalukettu, is constantly guiding her team.

Bhoomika’s story is similar to Chekutty - the birth of these dolls began with the idea of helping the flood survivors. However, they have one difference.

While Chekutty dolls, which were upcycled from the sarees of Chendamangalam handloom that were destroyed by the floods, was a one-time initiative, Bhoomika will be a sustained project, says Sobha.

“It is a long-term initiative to give employment opportunities to women, to work for a self-sustainable Kerala and a green gift for the rebuilding of the state,” she says.

How Bhoomika is helping rebuild lives

Sobha conceived the idea of creating Bhoomika along with Deepak of Pava Creative Studios.

“The dolls, designed by Deepak, are made entirely from discarded and waste fabric of any material and colour,” she says.

Half of the proceeds from the sale of Bhoomika dolls would go for flood relief, in kind. The remaining amount will go to the women making these dolls.

On Saturday, four women from the Mahila Mandiram, a home for destitute girls, arrived at the Weaver’s Village to learn the process of making Bhoomika. These women will, in turn, teach the women at the Mandiram. Girls from Nirbhaya, home for victims of sexual assault, are also involved in creating Bhoomika dolls.

Sobha Viswanath

On not adding a mouth on Bhoomika’s face, Deepak says he did not know what expression to give her. “She is speechless, I guess. But then, her bindi is a symbol of hope. That’s why it’s loud and red,” he says.

The boat in which Bhoomika sits is symbolic of the boats that saved thousands during the devastating floods.

The price of one doll is Rs 101. “The first doll was bought by cinematographer Ravi Varman, who gifted it to actors Katrina Kaif and Sidharth Malhotra. The second doll was bought by little Thumbi, daughter of a couple who happen to run a school called Bhoomi in Kochi,” Sobha says, pointing to a little girl playing with the doll.

Thumbi with Bhoomika

Sobha, who has been instrumental in setting up Anbodu Trivandrum for the flood relief work from the capital city, says she got a hang of the problems working at grassroot level. Like Tsunamika was made at the time of the 2004 Tsunami, Sobha wanted to create a mascot from waste. When it came to naming her, they couldn’t think of anything better than Bhoomika, daughter of Mother Earth.

(All photos are by Sreekesh Raveendran Nair)
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