Toy Town

A first-of-its-kind book aims to marry fictional stories with real visuals.

Written by Pallavi Chattopadhyay | Published:May 14, 2013 3:02 am

A first-of-its-kind book aims to marry fictional stories with real visuals.

During the 2010 India visit of US President Barack Obama with first lady Michelle,the couple took back some souvenirs in the form of Channapatna toys. These handcrafted wooden and eco-friendly toys made from vegetable dyes,are an example of a centuries-old tradition of craftsmanship struggling to survive in the small town of Channapatna,60 km south-west of Bangalore. In an effort to revive the fading art form in Channapatna,popularly referred to as the “town of toys”,photographer Ram Prakash and his childhood friend Deepa Pinto,have captured the essence of the town and its dying art form in one of the fictional stories from their debut photo-fiction book,The Stopover.

The book comprises four stories,from four locations,where the duo lived for days trying to understand the surroundings and its people,and complements these stories with over 100 pictures.

“Popular legend has it that the wood craft dates back to the times of Tipu Sultan”,says Prakash. In the story,The Rocking Horse Can Gallop Too,the authors have created two fictional characters who belong to Channapatna and run a catering service for the town’s elderly. The authors have tried to focus on the issues faced by the craftsmen of Channapatna through this story. “With the popularity of Chinese plastic toys,the craft is struggling to survive. Most craftsmen are unable to carry on the tradition because of the lack of both money and a demand for wooden toys. Since they are uneducated,their children are now looking for jobs as security guards in malls”,he adds.

The other stories touch upon subjects of the life of Tibetans living in exile in India,the tales of the Toda tribe in Ooty and a fish breeding site near Chennai in Kolathur. “I chose the Toda tribe,which comprises 2000 people,since I feel they are the most misrepresented tribe. Since their marriage ceremonies are not as grand and the time when a woman conceives is celebrated more extravagantly,outsiders tend to think that they are anti-social and have live-in relationships. This has hurt them”,says Prakash. The authors feel the book can contribute to becoming a visual and fictional guide for travellers.

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