by ABFRLadmin | December 14, 2022
We at ABFRL, present stories excerpted from our internal newsletter In Touch, where we celebrate stories of our people and their contributions.
Navaldeep Thareja often visits little-known places across Indian states to meet craftsmen, artisans, weavers, and tribal people for designs and more. His efforts have resulted in a beautiful new coffee table book that walks us through the lesser-known Todas tribe to give them the much-needed visibility that their art form deserves.
The Toda tribe inhabiting the Niligiri mountain range in Tamil Nadu is famous for its distinctive style of embroidery. Passed down through generations, the embroidery is done on red and black coloured stripes. As Navaldeep traversed through this fascinating land of unique artistic value, the idea of capturing the nuances of the tribe occurred to him. With the launch of his latest coffee table book, based on the life and craft of the tribe, Navaldeep takes us through how he went about creating this masterpiece.
How did this idea come to you?
I get to visit various rural places and meet tribal people for work. While working with them over a period of time, I got interested in Anthropology. Since there are no books available in the market for many tribes, I decided to share my Instagram stories with others through my Coffee Table Book.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I start my day early. I start my office work at 8 a.m. as its the best time to get the maximum yield. Theres no traffic on the roads, and you arrive early and finish your days work well on time. After work hours, I have the time for my research and writing. When I travel for work to these clusters and rural areas, I start my day early and finish late. I stay with their families all day long, learning about their experiences and their stories.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
The star of my show is the story behind the product being crafted. The craft and its outcomes are associated with the life and surroundings of the artisanal group. Thus, it covers aspects of their daily lives.
How do you scout for ideas and information for your books?
As I start my day early, I visit local markets selling fruits, vegetables, and milk to tribal people. Producers and traders of artisanal products come to towns and marketplaces / mandis to sell their wares. The flow of information begins there. I get ideas from Instagram and travel magazines. As I have been featured in National Geographic India, Lonely Planet India, Harpers Bazar India, and HIPA.ae (The Hamdan Bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography), I get to know about various local places and tribes through community learning.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
This was the first time I was working with a community I knew nothing about. Their language, though Dravidian, had no similarity with Tamil or other Dravidian languages. I know a bit of Tamil. However, I learned that things are way easier when we dont know each others language, and it all turned out very well. We started working with Todas community last year and continued to do so this year as well. While creating the book with this thought, I was able to put in more effort to bring the stories to people.