A Maharashtrian farmer or shetkari stands in a field with very few crops. A Koli fisherwoman garbed in lugda( saree ), choli( blouse) and a paanja( scarf ), while another stands wearing the traditional nauvari saree( nine-yard saree ). The detailing is sharp, the colourings bright and the passion of the artist apparent. These are three of hundreds of thousands of quilled dolls that Mumbai-based 16 -year-old Kshirja Raje has established. Though the teen’s dedication to create these dolls is visible to the eye, her noble intent, runs behind the scenes.
A young Kshirja Raje
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This girl has a heart so big-hearted that it feels the suffering of others acutely. Through her art and craft expoes, Kshirja has raised around Rs. 85,000 to fund the chemotherapy sessions of thirteen patients, mailed succor for Kolhapur flash floods, spread awareness for the sources of underprivileged children, girl-child education and even Indian soldiers deployed in Siachen, to call a few.
“I am blessed with mothers who have encouraged me to pursue my art and follow my heart. Simple acts of kindness travel a long way in inducing people happy. Even if it is helping someone cross the road, or elevating funds to help one family, have a square meal a day, do it, ” says the philanthropic teen, in exchange with The Better India.
Kshirja’s Craft–The story behind the Inspiration
Kshirja and her mum, Ujwala
Kshirja remembrances how as a five-year-old she threw a fit when told not to eat junk food. Unlike most mothers who would have relented to a call offspring, Ujwala, Kshirja’s mother, making a decision take her on a walk.
” My mom took me to a slum close to our neighbourhood. A boy was distributing homemade meat to the poor slum children. The panorama rattled me. I realizing that kids as young as two to three years old have meat to eat. And here I was living the best life, yet complaining about the meat on my plateful ,” shares Kshirja who currently studies in Class 11 at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
The following Diwali, Kshirja decided to stimulate several newspaper lamps instead of one for a school project. She then sold those to family members and heightened some funds to buy sweets and toys for the kids in the slums.
Thus began Kshirja’s jaunt of utilization of art and craft to support social causes.
The interest in the ship of quilling
Some of Kshirja’s dolls
“My father is a civil engineer and likewise an artist. I grew up watching him paint. So when I showed an interest in exploring art and craft, my parents promoted me, ” she informs.
Quilling or paper filigree is an art form that involves the use of strips of article who the hell is rolled, shaped, and glued together to create decorative designs.
Her interest in quilling triggered when she attended an art expo with her mothers at the age of nine.
“I remember walking up to a stalling where a dame was selling quilled envelopes. I was vastly fascinated by artwork. At the time , not many people knew what quilling was. So I approached the dame and tried to convince her to teach me. She meekly refused and said it wasn’t a craft for children and that she would teach it to my parents. To be honest, it hurt my pride, ” Kshirja laughs.
Undeterred, Kshirja started learning quilling on her own.
“I told my mother to buy a quilling kit. Following the user manual step by step, I learned and mastered the craft. It was difficult at first. But the jaunt from learning how to quill flowers on saluting cards and envelopes soon turned into creating dolls and mini-figurines! ”
Quilling dolls though was accidental. Once, when the youngster was quilling at her residence on a lazy afternoon, a quilled cone and clique get glued together. And that’s when it hit her — What if she quilled dolls?
She tried several alterations and intends. And formerly she got the hang of it, her skill at quilling dolls grew.
Kshirja’s first brush with fame was an exhibition in Kalyan on Maharashtra Day, 2015. In line with the topic, she decided to showcase the culture and heritage of the state through her quilled dolls right from popular saints, traditional musical instruments, deities, and rulers among others.
“The response was amazing. The people gushed about how they had never seen anybody my age make quilled dolls and with such precision. It boosted my confidence.”
Rising popularity, trust and help for social causes
In September the same year, her parents comprised her first solo-exhibition at Prabodhankar Keshav Sitaram Thackeray Natya Mandir. The artwork exhibition display more than 200 quilled dolls that Kshirja had created from the age of nine.
“Today, I have a collection of more than 1,000 dolls. I intend to apply to the Guinness Book of World Records for the same, ” says Kshirja.
One of her major motivatings to work for the less privileged was the breast cancer diagnosis of her father. The teen had already lost her grandmother to the same ailment and the diagnosis too emotionally draining for the little girl.
While Ujwala underwent a series of radiation treatment and chemotherapy to beat the disease, Kshirja started thinking of how the mothers of so many other kids couldn’t afford the treatment.
Kshirja decided to use the earnings from her first solo-exhibition to sponsor the chemotherapy of three needy females by donating Rs 30,000 to The Pink Initiative–an NGO manager by Dr Sumeet Shah and Kshirja’s mother Ujwala Raje, that conducts breast cancer awareness.
Till date, Kshirja has helped 13 such patients.
Recalling the time she was invited to do a pro-bono workshop for cancer kids at the Tata Memorial hospital she says, “I conducted a workshop for 40 cancer kids. The smile on their faces at the end of the workshop when they had created their own dolls was worth every minute I invested with them. It constructed me happy.”
Not merely Kshirja supports the Thane Police Welfare fund, she also contributed Rs 5,000 to retired air force personnel Yogesh Chithade and his wife, Sumedha Chithade’s SIRF Foundation. The Pune-based couple sold their jewellery and motivated others to raise funds to install an oxygen generation plant to help the soldiers at Siachen.
The teen also donated succor material including meat, clothes and drugs worth Rs 8,000 to the victims of the Kolhapur flash floods. She likewise received invited from the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya( formerly Prince of Wales Museum) to conduct quilling workshops and to display her dolls at the museum for more than three weeks.
Kshirja and her future aspirations
Ujwala who is now the proprietor of the brand Kshirja’s inventions, aims to transfer it to her daughter, on Kshirja’s 18 th birthday.
“I want her to know that art can be a viable entrepreneurship and vocation option too. And the members of the proceeds that she gives from the enterprise will continue to support the causes she believe in and supports.”
In her final content for other youth, the young changemaker says, “It doesn’t take much effort to spread happiness. And several people around us need assistance. So be happy, stir people happy and spread all the love you have.”
Read more: thebetterindia.com