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Delhiwale: Gulliver’s world

These dolls throb with life, their expressions detailed to perfection and their stillness reaching out to infinity.

delhi Updated: Aug 18, 2017 11:47 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Delhi news,Delhiwale,Shankar’s International Dolls Museum
Walk past more than 160 glass cases and feel like Gulliver, who is washed ashore during a shipwreck and awakens in a land with people one-twelfth his size.(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

There is nothing like this anywhere (we checked on Google).

For anyone curious about the world, its civilization and its people, this is a trip more affecting than your grandfather’s stacks of National Geographic magazines.

Set up by cartoonist K Shankar Pillai (1902-1989), the Shankar’s International Dolls Museum has one of the largest collections of dolls — over 60,000; black, white, and brown, Bulgarian, Cuban, and Indian. Walk past more than 160 glass cases and feel like Gulliver, who is washed ashore during a shipwreck and awakens in a land with people one-twelfth his size.

Meet the Kabuki dancer from Kyoto, Flamenco dancer from Barcelona, and the Jazz trumpeter from Harlem. Watch the Siberian hunter travelling on a sledge, the Norwegian witch riding a broom, and a Portuguese girl carrying a chicken on her head. Say hello to little Mozart and wave at the little astronaut.

In our intolerant world, it is nice to see all races, religions and sexes sharing a small space so happily. Indophiles will be happy spotting sari-clad women, freedom fighters and kuchipudi dancers. For people watchers, there are farmers, dancers, kings, queens, priests, casanovas, housewives, lovers, jesters, violinists, fairies, witches, secretaries, society ladies and yes, barbies, too. Most dolls seem to throb with life. It could be because of the embroidery on their dresses, or the way their heads are tilted. The experience is intensified by little details: a housewife is dressed in a crumpled check sari and mangalsutra, and a Brahmin hermit has a caste mark on his forehead.

A few dolls were presented to the museum by visiting first ladies of countries that have disappeared from the map. Madam Tito of Yugoslavia came to the museum in 1966 (it had opened a year earlier) and gifted a Balkan belle in a peasant dress. The museum also has a doll-making workshop where you can watch the craftsmen at work. You can also buy dolls as souvenirs.

Here are some snapshots from our visit to the museum:

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 15:56 IST