Scholar Harsha V. Dehejia is ready with a children’s book set in Dilli Haat
So far he has written scholarly books on the arts, poetry and philosophy of India and how they coalesce. In the course of his research, Harsha V. Dehejia has come to see how beauty is to be found in everyday objects and traditions that have come to be taken for granted. Shopkeepers may consider themselves entrepreneurs and not artists. But artisans too are entrepreneurs. That is why he delights in a shopping area like Dilli Haat and in another landmark of India’s Capital city, the Cottage Industries Emporium of the Government of India.
In small towns, notes the author, the joy people take in their craft traditions is still palpable, though in big cities one might have to go to more exclusive locations.
“An ordinary potter, if you stand and watch. If he makes a ghara (earthenware water pot). He’s enjoying it! Look at how beautifully he makes it with his hands, and there’s a sense of joy about him. Or a woman who’s embroidering. Whether it is Kantha, or Chamba rumaal, or Kutch embroidery. Simple women are sitting there and embroidering, making such beautiful things. Or weavers, things like that…” he tapers off, before adding, “Which led me to another book. It is coming out in April this year. It’s a children’s story.”
The story is set in Dilli Haat, which he enjoys visiting. “There is a girl called Megha who goes to the Dilli Haat. And she is enjoying all these crafts. Then she sees a sadhu sitting under a tree. She goes up to him and says, who are you. He says, ‘I am Vishwakarma, I am the god of all the craftspeople.’ She asks, why have you come here. He says, ‘I’ve come to see if all my sons are doing well’,” relates the author.
Eventually Vishwakarma takes the child in his udankhatola (magic chariot) and shows her around India with its craft traditions, “from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat to Assam”. And so she sees all these sights in one hour in the magic chariot.
She also meets the craftspeople. “Because the craftspeople are as interesting as the crafts,” he points out, “whether it’s the potter or the shoemaker or the Kalamkari artist or the Kantha weaver, the shawl maker, In South India you have the stone carvers…And with that I’ve given all the stories that go with them.”
The book is a small one, says the author. It will be published by Niyogi Books.