This Coimbatore woman is battling a rare bone disease but she's got her own doll-making business

Radhika AJ was diagnosed with a disease similar to brittle bone disease when she was five years old. Though she is restricted from the outdoors, she has found a way to make a living with her art
Radhika AJ (Pic: U Rakesh Kumar)
Radhika AJ (Pic: U Rakesh Kumar)

If you ask a 90s kid who was even remotely interested in art and craft, three in five will mention Rob, host of the television art show MAD as their inspiration. Radhika AJ was a fan of Rob as well and she spent her entire week making the crafts that Rob taught his followers that every Sunday. Art was her self-prescribed therapy to overcome the mental trauma of a disease, she says even the doctors were unable to diagnose.

Her African paper dolls (Pic: U Rakesh Kumar)

Things were normal for Radhika till she was five, she was actively participating in sports as well. "I was active in athletics then. Once I fell down and hurt my thighs. I had visited the doctor and they gave me some medication. But it kept getting worse. Later, when I consulted a different doctor, they said that my thigh bone had a fracture and my muscles had grown into the cracked bone," explains the 20-year-old. "I had to undergo surgery, and a plate was placed. After a year, they removed the plate. But the problem persisted and I could barely walk. With continuous analyses, my doctors concluded that my condition was something similar to brittle bone disease and my bones were as tender as an eggshell," she adds.

This stopped her from going to school. However, rather than sitting idle, she started making small crafts using old newspapers and today she has a business of her own. "I was getting depressed as I couldn't go to school. Sitting two hours straight could permanently bend my spinal cord. Then I came across the show and started making crafts with things that were available at home. Newspapers helped me kill my boredom," she laughs.

Newspaper is her basic raw material (Pic: U Rakesh Kumar)

But what did she make with these newspapers, "I started making wind chimes using newspapers. Seeing this, my elder brother's friend Manikandan, showed me a video of how to make African dolls using newspaper. I loved the model and started putting my imagination into work," she says, recollecting the events of 2018. "I made ten different dolls in ten days and sent him the pictures and he started sharing it on social media," she adds.

However, Radhika had a testing time for the first six months. "People loved the dolls, but they wanted me to add eyes and other facial features to it. I did not prefer that, because my dolls would lose their originality if I did so. Hence I explained to them that this is the way it should be whether they liked it or not," Radhika shares. 

From Radhika's desk (Pic: U Rakesh Kumar)

However, her work didn't get very noticed immediately but she waited patiently. And it finally did. "My aunt came to my house and she noticed the dolls. She loved it. She wanted me to make a pair of these dolls for her, which I did. Later, through word of mouth, I started receiving orders continuously," she smiles. "My brother, Raj Mohan, had posted the photos on Instagram and Facebook. This increased the reach for my dolls," she said.

Though she cannot sit still in one place for too long, she made sure that she created at least one piece of artwork a day. "I feel incomplete if my hands aren't messed up every day. It has become a part of my life. Though I am preparing for my Class XI board exams as a private candidate, I make sure that I maintain the balance between studies and art and taking care of my health," she avers.

Discussing her future plans, Radhika says that she might conduct a workshop during her summer vacations. "I have been getting orders for newspaper wind chimes, dustbins, silk bangles and so on apart from the dolls. When I upload these products online, people continue to request for workshops for the same. Hence that is one important part of my to-do list this 2020," she concludes cheerfully.

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