A Priceless Gift
Tsunamika dolls have been an integral part of my life from the first time I saw them during a visit to Auroville in 2007. The dolls completed captivated my heart with their childlike simplicity and powerful message of hope that is resonant across all cultures. When I heard the story of how Tsunamika dolls were born out of the felt need to heal the emotional wounds left in the lives of fisherwomen around Auroville who had lost their children to the Tsunami of 2005 it moved me to tears. And what was even more astounding that these women who had lost all their material belongings, were now longing to gift these dolls forward without a price tag to the whole world. And gift they did. An epic 7 million of these dolls have been handcrafted and paid forward by these fisherwomen. The project is entirely financed by voluntary donations received by recipients of these dolls while Upasana team coordinates the distribution.
Over time, I became a self appointed ambassador of her message. My bag would always have a handful of these iconic dolls, and I have freely shared these dolls across the globe with tea-sellers in Istanbul to bus drivers in London to school children in Krakow. Usually any recipient of the doll, be it an 80 year old nun or a 5 year old school girl, would be filled with a sense of delight and a huge smile would reflect upon their faces. Their hearts would open up and soon their smiles would spark a chain reaction of smiles all around.
As the years rolled on, and thousands of these dolls passed out thru my hands I became quite close to Uma, the powerhouse behind this initiative, and I would often share my experiences and healing stories around the dolls. She would talk enthusiastically share the new avatars that the dolls were taking such as being chosen as a mascot for the Pinkathon marathon and Ocean protection. With each new avatar that the doll took, my heart swelled in joy as if seeing my shy niece grow up into a courageous young woman who is ready to stand up for what she believes in.
In early July of 2018, when I had started my Newcomer process, I was visiting the 12 Petals at Matri Mandir almost daily. I was praying for strength to cultivate the 12 qualities given by the Mother as well as a seeking guidance on the way forward as there were infinite possibilities in Auroville. To access any of the 12 petals , I would take a color coded pass from the office, and each pass would carry a beautiful quote which I would read on the short walk from office to petal rooms. The quotes were very apt to my inner state, and I would wish that there was a way to carry these around with me as a thought for the day.
As if in direct response to my heartfelt wish, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a packet of 12 bookmarks with the same quotes found on petal cards printed by Jaya and shared freely in the spirit of gift similar to the Tsunamika dolls.
On one of the visits as I was sitting in the Receptivity petal. Out of the blue, an insight flashed across my heart to find a design that merges the Tsunamika dolls, Matri Mandir petal access cards and Unity Pavilion bookmarks.
I remember walking out of the Receptivity petal that day feeling a surge of enthusiasm that I hadn't experienced in a long time. I immediately went to my room and started making rough sketches of a new design for the Tsunamika tags. When I had a few passable designs I took them to Uma who liked the idea and said "The idea came to you, which means you are responsible for this initiative. Get to work with the graphics team and come up with an design that we can print 5000 sets of these and send them out as Auroville's gifts to the world."
While I got to work on designing the tags with Prabhakar at AV Designs, Uma and Jaya went about detailing the exact shade of colors associated with each of the 12 qualities. They would spend hours petal-hopping at the Matri Mandir, speaking to old time Aurovillians for their inputs and finding weavers who could supply the materials.
As a beta test, we kept a target to launch the new dolls at the Sourcing Our Oneness gathering in Nainital in September 2018. Little did I realise how many intricacies were involved in the creation of this simple doll's new avatar. Finally after weeks of "labor of love" by countless people, a 100 sets of the new dolls were ready a few hours before our team was to leave for Nainital.
It's hard to express the joy our team felt, when we first "held" the new dolls, maybe that's how a parent feels when they first hold a new-born child. When the dolls were first gifted to unsuspecting participants at the SOO gathering, they evoked joyful (delightful) emotions. It felt like the new avatar had finally found her feet and had landed in earth consciousness.
However, our team realised that we still needed to make a few more tweaks in the design process that could produce sustainably thousands of these new dolls. Fast forward to May 2019, (as part Uma's 50th birthday celebrations), we finalized a production and packaging design for 5000 sets. We have already starting sending them out all over the world to whoever requests them, and our production is already finding it difficult to keep up with the demand.
Feeling grateful that I got to play a tiny part in this little doll's awesome adventures.
A message from ~ Sheetal Sanghvi