Grant Period: Over two years
Scharada Bail is a writer, internet consultant and Tarot practitioner. She has won several writing awards and her books for children including the travelogues Footloose on the West Coast, Malwa on My Mind and A Necessary Journey.
Scharada Bail researched the craft and lifestyles of itinerant toymakers in India. Her study was expected to result in stories of human interest and suggest concrete measures to alleviate the unfortunate condition of toymakers across the country.
Scharada is interested in several aspects of the toymaker’s art, entrepreneurship and day-to-day existence. To begin with, handcrafted, breakable toys, often made from recycled material are, according to her, as good an instance as any of an artistically ingenious and yet ignored craft. “What is the future for these collapsible and recycled toys in a world increasingly dependent on ‘plug-ins’ and digital effects?” she asks.
Larger than the issue of whether such toymakers will be able to sustain themselves in the long run is the question of why they even choose to be itinerant toymakers – constantly having to search for markets in the face of competition they can hardly presume to counter.
She does not see the toymakers only as victims of an unjust social order or government apathy. Her interest in them is foremost as creative individuals, and stories that bring them to life will take primacy over imparting information about their socio-economic condition.
Ms Bail’s project has taken her to several Indian towns and cities frequented by toymakers. She sees the project as leading to various outcomes besides an illustrated book. She plans to offer workshops and demonstrations with the toymakers at schools and other institutions in order to enhance their visibility and raise awareness about their craft. She also hopes eventually to set up a trust for toymakers and sellers, which might support them both financially and substantively – by helping them to organize exhibitions of their toys, for instance.
Her findings have resulted in a book-length manuscript entitled Toy makers Amongst Us: Light from India’s Urban Poor’, and she is in the process of locating a publisher for her manuscript.