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Bengaluru: Flood-ravaged Kerala has found an unlikely symbol of its survival, resilience and reconstruction—thousands of mud-covered dolls. 

The dolls have caught the imagination of those who are trying to get Keralites back on their feet, including chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Called “Chekkutty"—short for Chendamangalam Kutty or Chendamangalam’s kid—or Cherine athijeevicha kutty, meaning the kid who has survived the mud, these dolls are dressed up in mud-stained handloom sarees.

They were lined up for Onam festival sales in a weaving village called Chendamangalam in central Kerala—the sole hope of income for over 600 mostly women bread-winners.

But then floods hit the state, damaging these dolls beyond repair— 20 lakh worth goods and 50 lakh worth weaving machines were damaged.

Then last week, a social worker and a fashion designer Lakshmi Menon and Gopinath Parayil, a pioneer in Kerala’s tourism industry, came up with the idea of converting the mud-stain into a product.

“We figured we can make 360 cloth dolls, each one priced at 25, from a handloom saree priced at about 1,200. That may not entirely help us recover what we lost, but at least be of some help for us, and on the way become a mascot of the floods for people who care across the world," said Ajith Kumar, secretary of the weaver’s cooperative in Chendamangalam, over the phone.

Next, the weaving village set up a website to sell the dolls, with the help of tech-savvy volunteers. 

“Chekutty has scars, Chekutty has stains. But Chekutty is each one of us who survived the floods," says one of the volunteer posts of the website on social media.

Support from the state government and tourism department followed. In the last five days alone, over 100,000 dolls have been sold, said Kumar.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, “Chekutty is fast becoming a totem of Kerala’s survival after the floods."

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