Published: 10th September 2018
These 'Chekutty' dolls made from flood-damaged saris could help Chendamangalam's weavers
Chekuttys are made out of the stained and dirty handloom sarees weaved in the flood-affected Chendamangalam in Kerala
Chekutty's face and body are scarred and stained. The doll drowned in the flood waters in Kerala. But yet, she survived, like most of the families in Kerala. And did she decide to spread the gloom? Absolutely not! Instead, she decided to wear a smile, brighter than a ray of sun, reminding all Malayalis that hope isn't lost.
Promoted as a mascot to rebuild flood devastated Kerala, Chekutty is a tiny rag doll made out of hand-woven saris lost at the famous Chendamangalam weaving units — the same stock that was damaged in the floods, leaving the weavers grappling with a huge debt of over Rs 21 lakh. The clothes are being boiled, chlorinated and disinfected before new Chekutty dolls are made out of them.
Chekutty is the brainchild of fashion designer Lakshmi Menon, the founder of Pure Living, an initiative that makes recycled and upcycled products in Kochi. She tells us how the idea came about. "My friend Gopinath Parayil was volunteering in a lot of relief activities in Chendamangalam. The weavers there had lost most of their Onam stock due to the flood and were all set to burn it. That is when the idea of upcycling these products hit me," says Menon, who adds that one could make 365 Chekuttys out of one handloom sari.
Happy child: Chekuttys can be used as a luggage tag, key chain or a souvenir
These tiny dolls can be used as a luggage tag, key chain, door hanging or as a simple souvenir. Each Chekutty costs you just Rs 25 and will be available for sale on chekutty.in in the next couple of days. The funds will be transferred directly to the account of the Chendamangalam weavers.
The name Chekuty was Parayil's idea, which expands to Chendamangalam Kutty (child). "Things and people who are abandoned are my favourites. The weavers tried to whiten the clothes, but that was all in vain. So we thought, why not make dolls that actually highlighted the stains. Everybody has stains and scars about the floods in their minds. We figured we should make Chekutty a mascot, reminding people that their life can be weaved back to normal," she adds.
All the Chekuttys are made by volunteers. Menon is demonstrating the doll making techniques to boutiques, dressmakers and all others who are ready to help. She tells us that it just takes five minutes to make a Chekutty.
The weavers are also quite hopeful about this project because of the economics. A cotton sari costs Rs 1350. 365 Chekuttys can be made out of one sari, which means Rs 9125 can be made out of it. "Dry cleaning a sari will cost at least Rs 200. That was when Lakshmi Menon came up with this idea. This way, we are hoping to get a good profit out of our products and overcome at least a part of the loss we faced," says Ajith Kumar, secretary of the Handloom Weavers’ Co-operative Society, Karimpadam, Chendamangalam.
Do you want your Chekutty today?